The past few years I have been looking for recipes to make many items at home instead of buying packaged since I don’t care for the taste of many packaged items.

I recently made these Soft baked oatmeal squares. They were quick to put together and tasted great.

A couple changes I made were that I used chunky peanut butter since that’s what I had on hand and I used mini Reeses pieces since I grabbed the wrong bag at the store. I also did not put the glaze on top.

They can be wrapped individually and kept in the freezer if you are not planning on using them soon.

There are a variety of recipes in cookbooks and online so you can have some variation in your rotation of snacks. You could use the basic recipe and add different flavored chips, etc.

Smart Kids Launchpad is a website developed by Dave Ramsey and his team with activities to teach kids about money and finances. Each week there is a new activity and they can earn badges for each activity they complete. You can either print out the badges or order sticker badges from them. The sticker badges are free but you may need to pay shipping charges.

Instead of replacing the laminate countertops in my kitchen and wetbar in my family room, I transformed them with the Rustoleum Countertop Transformation kit. There is also a kit to transform your cabinets. The kit includes almost everything you will need, there are a few items listed on the box that you will need to purchase. The items needed are paint brushes and rollers, paint tray, drop cloths and painters tape.

The kit in the link above covers 25 feet, I purchased a kit that covers 50 feet for $200 at Menards. When I purchased it they were running the 11% rebate special so I will get about $20 back which is about what the extra supplies probably cost.

First you sand the surface with a sanding block that is included to rough up the surface. Then you apply the basecoat and decorative chips. This needs to sit at overnight or at least 12 hours. Within 24 hours it needs to be sanded to make the surface smooth. Once you have it sanded and wiped off you apply the top coat. This needs to sit at least 48 hours to cure. After the 48 hours it can be used for light use but they recommend waiting 7 days for regular use of your countertops.

With drying time it takes a couple of days to complete the process. The box says actually working time is about 4-6 hours which is about right.

In the instructions it recommended having two people working on some steps but I did it alone and it worked fine. I did a section at a time when applying the basecoat and chips.

With the sanding and decorative chips, you end up with a mess on the floor so either have a drop cloth or shop vac handy. I didn’t cover the floor, but it cleaned up easily with the shop vac.

It is an easy and fairly inexpensive way to update your kitchen or other countertops in your home.

Now that school is out in most areas or close to it, you may be looking for ways to keep your kids busy.

Here is a listing of some of the summer reading programs. Also check your local libraries for summer reading programs and other activities. The Red River Valley Fair is also sponsoring a reading contest.

Many craft stores and other stores have craft supplies and craft kits in a variety of themes and age groups. Below are some of the items I saw at one of our local WalMart stores. The foam glitter letters and patterned felt sheets are $0.97 each and the felt shapes are $1.97 each.

I walked to the Dakota Boys Ranch thrift store at 16th St and 32nd Ave S, Fargo this morning and saw they had a display of scrapbook paper. The photo above is a photo I took of the display. The 12″ x 12″ sheets are $0.25 each.

AAA North Dakota is hosting Bike Safety Events in Bismarck and Fargo. The Bismarck event will be Tuesday, June 10 from 1 to 3 and the Fargo event will be Tuesday, June 17 from 1 to 3.

Registration at the link above is required to attend the event. There will be a FREE child’s helmet while supplies last for registrants ages 3 -12. Child must be present to receive the free helmet.

AAA is also promoting the “I Got Caught” program throughout North Dakota. When law enforcement officials spot kids wearing their helmets while riding bike and other activities they may be given a “ticket” for a free ice cream cone at Dairy Queen. In 2013 there were 8,600 tickets given out. This summer there are 10,000 coupons available.

I was recently looking online for ideas for a DIY TV stand. I found an idea and made the above one for my family room. I am planning on adding baskets to the middle shelf.

I used 3 2′x4′ pieces of pine wood which I stained and landscaping bricks. The entire project cost about $60. The wood was $10 a piece and the bricks were $0.55 each. I used crescent shaped bricks so I have two for each layer.

Once the wood is stained and dries it is easy to put together. You also use shorter pieces of wood if your space isn’t as large. You can use different types of wood, colors of stain and shapes and colors of bricks for various looks.

I have had some old folding chairs that I wanted to update. Over the weekend, I bought some fabric, padding and spray paint and updated the four chairs.

I found a couple patterns of fabric in the remnant section that were half price and the padding was on sale for half price. I spent about $30 for the fabric, padding and paint for the 4 chairs.

First I painted the chairs, then cut the padding to fit and used a glue gun to glue to the chair. I then cut the fabric a little larger than needed so it could be wrapped around the sides and glued to the underside of the chair.

After painting the chairs and letting them dry, it took less than an hour to add the cushions. It was an easy project and they turned out looking great.

One question I see a lot on various websites and blogs is how much people spend on groceries. Usually when they ask the question, they include the number of people and ages of the kids.

There are many factors that can affect how much you spend on groceries. Prices may be higher or lower depending on the part of the country you live in. Also, if family members have special diets or you choose to eat a special diet such as gluten-free, organic or some other diet, you will likely be paying more than other people.

Even though some foods are less expensive, they may not be the best choice in the long run. Many processed and prepared foods may be less expensive and less time consuming to use but they may contain more preservatives, sugar and other ingredients that are not so good for you.

If you have a larger family, shopping at warehouse clubs may be a way to save on grocery expenses. Even though I cook at home most of the time, since I live alone it doesn’t work for me to shop at warehouse or bulk stores. Even if the prices seem lower at warehouse stores, you may not save as much as you think if you throw a lot of it way before you can use it up.

Two of the blogs I follow are MoneySavingMom and LifeAsMom that focus on recipes and tips to stretch your grocery budget. Some of the techniques they discuss are meal planning, freezer cooking and crockpot cooking.

By spending a little time each week or month to make a meal plan and watching store sales you may be able to save some money on your grocery bill. When you have something planned to cook or it is partially ready, it may be less tempting to stop for take out or to go out to eat.

I saw a recent quote on Larry Winget’s Facebook page.

People don’t have money problems; they have priority problems.

Get your priorities right and your money will get right”

There are some people who work hard for a living and barely make ends meets but there are a lot more that spend money on things they may not necessarily need and then don’t have money for needs such as housing and food.

One of the reasons many people are in extreme debt is that they think they NEED the latest phone, computers, cars, clothes and other items. Most things can be purchased on monthly payments but if you get too many of those monthly payments you can find yourself in financial trouble quickly.

Even if you can afford to make the monthly payments, you are probably paying much more than the original price when you factor in the interest charges being assessed each month.

It may seem difficult but in the long run you and your family will enjoy things more if you are able to afford to pay for the items when you purchase them.