What does it really mean to be self-reliant?

Self-reliance is a term that gets used a lot in the homesteading community, but what is self-reliance? Is it actually achievable, or is it a delusion? Is true self-reliance even possible? We explore the myths, misconceptions and realities of what it really means to be self-sufficient in the 21st century. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it really means to be “self-reliant.” 

We talk a lot about self-reliance (or self-sufficiency) in the homesteading community, and outwardly it may seem as if the goal of “achieving” self-reliance is what ultimately drives many of us to live this lifestyle in the first place.

But what does self-reliance look like in the 21st century? Is it actually achievable, or just a pipe dream?

Is it even possible to be truly self-reliant?


Is self-reliance a delusion?

A few years ago, Forbes published an article titled Dear Homesteaders, Self-Reliance is a Delusion.

In the article, the author explains that he’s a big fan of “shows about doomsday preppers, homesteaders, survivalists, generally people who live off the grid,” citing Live Free Or Die and Homestead Rescue as a couple of his favourites.

He then goes on to say that “there’s a central delusion in these shows that is never far from my mind when I’m watching these shows: off the grid people are not self-reliant, but instead are mooching off of the civil society, government, and safety net the rest of us contribute to.”

What the WHAAA???

He continues, “the people in these shows often describe a very romantic vision of the lives they have chosen [and] the ethos underlying it. They describe themselves as fully self-reliant, and criticize the rest of society as being dependent and lacking in this self-reliance… they nevertheless benefit tremendously from society.”

The author argues that even the most hardcore, off-the-grid homesteaders still rely on modern tools, resources and material goods (even if they’re second-hand) that they are not able to produce themselves.

He also says that most homesteaders will (at some point or another) rely on modern medical treatment, and that they benefit from social systems and services like private property protections, rule of law, and the military which provides them with safety and security.

He concludes that “self-reliance is for the most part a myth. Unless they live in an extremely remote region, use all homemade tools, and will refuse the safety net if they need it, most homesteaders are far from self-reliant.”

Let’s unpack this…

What does self-reliant really mean?


Unpacking the myth of modern day self-reliance

I’ll begin by saying that the author of this Forbes article is not completely wrong. Most (if not all) homesteaders do benefit from society in one way or another, and will eventually need to rely on others to provide for them in some way. But this has always been true for homesteaders, and indeed, for humans in general.

We are complex, social creatures and we live in an increasingly complex world. It’s difficult if not impossible to achieve complete self-reliance and independence. And besides, that’s not the goal of most homesteaders anyway. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

The fact is, even back in the pioneer days, homesteaders still had to go to town to purchase or trade for goods they couldn’t produce themselves, and they still relied on their neighbours and friends to help out with larger projects, exchanging goods and services, etc.

As folks aged, they relied on the younger members of their families and communities to help care for them, and many even called the doctor and relied on the medical system of the day when necessary. 

Even back then, homesteaders benefitted from the protection of law enforcement and even from “government handouts” like the free land given to settlers by the government during the days of the Homestead Act.

Going back even farther, humans have always depended on each other for survival. Whether they were members of the first civilizations of the ancient times or the tribes that date back to the hunter gatherer times, very few humans have truly “gone it alone” without any outside help.

Even the family unit is inherently interdependent and so one could make the argument that homesteading family members who rely on each other for various reasons can not actually be considered “self-reliant.”

In reality, small, decentralized, local communities and strong, interdependent relationships with one another are essential to self-reliance in many ways. But then can we really call ourselves self-reliant?

Is anyone truly self-reliant??

Related: 6 Ways to Promote Self-Reliance in Your Community


Self-reliance is a term that gets used a lot in the homesteading community, but what is self-reliance? Is it actually achievable, or is it a delusion? Is true self-reliance even possible? We explore the myths, misconceptions and realities of what it really means to be self-sufficient in the 21st century.

What does it mean to be self-reliant?

The concept of self-reliance has been written about many times throughout history. Some of the first and most famous literary works on self-reliance was written back in the 1800’s by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, both of whom spoke about self-reliance and preached the importance of maintaining free will and autonomy over one’s own life.

In his famous essay appropriately titled Self-Reliance, Emerson wrote “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” 

By “a foolish consistency” he was referring to conformity, and was making the case that one should think critically and follow his or her own instincts and judgment (ie. rely on one’s SELF to decide what’s best for them, rather than relying on systems and “the state” to decide for them).

In Thoreau’s famous book Walden (which was all about his experience living a self-reliant lifestyle in a log cabin on Walden Pond), Thoreau wrote “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

He also wrote that “Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.” 

Both Emerson and Thoreau (who were friends) seemed to believe that self-reliance is mostly about upholding the core values of independence, individuality and self-determination. 

While this can (and often does) entail relying on one’s own skills and abilities to produce or procure what’s needed rather than relying on others, it can be argued that self-reliance is more of a mindset, an attitude and a way of life rather than a strict adherence to surviving only off of what you can do and produce alone with your own hands.

Even Henry David Thoreau lived on someone else’s land (Ralph Waldo Emerson supposedly owned the land next to Walden Pond). He traded homegrown beans for rice and other commodities he couldn’t produce himself, and he likely used tools that he didn’t make himself to build his log home. And he almost certainly didn’t make the the ink or the paper that he used to pen his legendary essays on.

But in comparison to the rest of civilized society, he was definitely much MORE self-reliant than the average guy (or gal).

Which brings up an interesting consideration:

Maybe becoming completely self-reliant IS a delusion. Maybe it’s just not possible. But maybe that shouldn’t be the goal anyway.

Instead, maybe self-reliance is about the constant pursuit to be MORE self-reliant, even if absolute, 100% self-reliance is never truly attainable.

And despite what others may say; Despite the opinions of a suit-clad, New York City-based economist and Forbes contributor who admits to believing this lifestyle “seems like a hard life,” I would argue that complete and total self-reliance isn’t the point or the goal.

In fact, I don’t believe there is an end goal! Self-reliance is an ongoing pursuit, or journey, if you will. And it’s a noble and worthwhile one.

Not to mention, it’s precisely this ongoing pursuit that keeps things interesting. If anyone were to ever “achieve” self-reliance, what else would there be left to work toward?

The pursuit – the JOURNEY – is what drives us.


Self-reliance is a term that gets used a lot in the homesteading community, but what is self-reliance? Is it actually achievable, or is it a delusion? Is true self-reliance even possible? We explore the myths, misconceptions and realities of what it really means to be self-sufficient in the 21st century.

What I know for sure…

What I know for sure is that self-reliance shouldn’t be regarded as an all-or-nothing venture. Just because one can never attain complete and total self-reliance doesn’t mean the only other moral option is to give up trying altogether and conform to modern society’s standards and expectations.

We are an “all or nothing” society it seems. We often think that if we can’t do something perfectly, what’s the point of even trying?

But as with just about everything that’s worth doing, working toward greater self-reliance and independence is worth doing imperfectly. Don’t be dissuaded by a lack of experience or knowledge or by where you live or even what you’re “legally allowed” or physically capable of doing. Even one small step toward being more self-sufficient is a step in the right direction.

My advice is to start with your mindset. I wrote a post about this way back when I started blogging, all about the traits and attitudes that make for a successful homesteader. I believe that having the right mindset is a foundational first step on the path to any goal or dream you’re working toward.

Then take it one step at a time. Have realistic expectations and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly and all at once. Take comfort in the fact that no matter where you are on the journey, you’ll never run out of interesting and empowering new skills and things to learn and try.

Above all, enjoy the pursuit. At the end of the day, it’s the pursuit of our goals and dreams that makes life worth living. Actually achieving them only provides a momentary high.

I’ll leave you with one final quote by Henry David Thoreau (whose literature I definitely recommend reading!)…

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

In other words, you do you!

To the pursuit of self-reliance! To independence and individualism! And above all, to the pursuit of dreams, and to never letting the haters stop you in your tracks;)

What does self-reliance mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below👇


Ready to take the next step toward greater self-reliance?

While we may never achieve total self-reliance, we can work toward becoming MORE self-reliant and less dependent on corrupt and unreliable systems and industries who consistently put their own interests ahead of ours. But it can be tough to know where to start or what to focus our attention on, and it can be even more difficult to go it alone. 

That’s why I decided to create the Society of Self-Reliance; a monthly membership and private community that focuses on the many different themes and aspects of self-sufficiency. From growing and preserving food to crafting your own herbal medicine to learning basic construction and survival skills to creating greater financial independence, we’ll be covering all the different aspects of self-sufficiency over time. But more importantly, we’ll have a private space to connect and learn from one another. Because remember: A strong community makes for greater self-sufficiency!

I’ll be opening the doors to the Society for a limited time next week at a discounted rate for the first round of students.

If you’re ready to take the next step on your self-sufficiency journey and reclaim your independence, join the waitlist here!

I hope to see you inside:)







  1. lisa lombardo

    I have a hard time taking someone seriously when they talk about self-reliance if they haven’t even tried this lifestyle. I don’t ever expect to be completely self-sufficient but at least I’m trying!

    • Anna Sakawsky

      Amen to that! It reminds me of the famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…” In other words, it’s much easier to do nothing and criticize from the sidelines than it is to strive for something difficult that may be impossible to achieve perfectly, but is still worth pursuing.

  2. Lorraine

    Good points and love the quotes. Many people consider me “a granola” because I cook from scratch and use very little process foods. I like to eat “real food” that taste good with herbs and spices that we grew in our garden or picked up at a farmers’ market or what my husband hunted for meat. I consider myself “a modern day homesteader” for I like my indoor gas stove, washing machine, dish washer, refrigerator, freezer and of course indoor bathroom. I am more in tune to what I purchase and consume. I prefer to repurpose anything I can for another use, can, dry and freeze food, make my own cleaning products. I only produce one garbage a month and I could go longer but just want to empty the can after a month. I live the reduce and reuse concept all the time and always try to think of ways to do this more than I have for years. I mend clothes rather than throwing clothes out. I cut old t-shirts for rags. I love to do some crafts when I can find some spare time as well. I love to decorate with real greens, pine cones and assorted dried plants and seeds from the outdoors for afterwards I can compost it all. There is so much all of us can do to help Mother Earth stay healthy. We all have our limits on what or what not we are willing to do and that is okay but any little bit by everyone helps. I prefer to enjoy friends and family at wherever they are at in life and not be judgmental for we all can only try our best and keep our sanity at the same time. I enjoy being in tune with nature and enjoying the outdoors and trying my best to keep the environment and my home healthy with taking the time to do all I do. It is time consuming but I find it satisfying to care about Mother Earth and all she has to offer us to enjoy. Love watching wild life so much. My husband says, we are easily entertained. I enjoy following you for you keep it simple, positive and very productive in your creating.


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Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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If you haven't checked-in lately, the last week or so, we've sorta been in the trenches of homesteading and life over here. While some make it out to be glamorous all the time there are high's and low's just as there are in life. ⁣

With all that's going on, I've been making a point to find my way back into the garden, which is not only needed to feed my family, but also for some personal spiritual nourishment. ⁣

I just want to take a minute to love on my favorite veggie today, Broccoli! 🥦 It's one we plant over-and-over and I'm leaning into its abundance this year. ⁣

Not only is it one of my favorites, but we've also found it's one of the easiest veggies to grow so if you haven't tried it or added it to your garden yet, there's no better time than the present. ⁣

I've got an entire post on How to Grow Broccoli from Seed here: https://thehouseandhomestead.com/how-to-grow-broccoli-from-seed/ if you're looking for any tips or tricks.⁣

In my "How to" post you'll also find a link to one of my favorite recipes for Cream of Broccoli Leaf Soup!

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Can I be honest?

Sometimes you've gotta take a step back and look at the life you've created for yourself and ask yourself "is this truly what I want?"

The other day I shared about losing two of our rabbits this week to Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease. The stress of losing them comes amidst a backdrop of heightened tensions around here...

From work pressures for Ryan to me trying to run a business and handle a very fussy, colicky 2-month-old (and a very busy 6-year-old), to things ramping up in the garden again and all of the other million things that need to get done (including multiple loads of laundry a day thanks to more spit up than I ever knew a baby was capable of producing), I finally felt like I was ready to crack this week.

Oh, not to mention we're doing this all on next to no sleep thanks again to our sweet boy.

I know this is all part of what we signed up for, but when it all happens at once, it can feel completely overwhelming. And when I'm completely overwhelmed and stressed out, that's exactly when I get sick too, which is exactly what happened a couple days ago.

Then yesterday (Saturday) I woke up feeling awful and decided to scroll Instagam as I nursed Noah. I saw other mothers with 6, 8 or even 10 kids somehow keeping it all together getting three square meals on the table every day while managing to keep a tidy kitchen and find time to Instagram about it.

I saw other homestead bloggers reaching new levels of success in their business that I can only dream about right now. And as I sat there in bed, covered in spit up with a ravenous baby nursing off me as I tried to console him, I felt sad for myself in that moment that I couldn't live up to the folks I was comparing myself to.

Later in the day I had to work, so Ryan took the kids to the beach and I stayed home. And I felt sad once again; Sad that I was missing out on yet another weekend with my family because I had created a life where I now have to work weekends just to keep up.

But the silver lining was that the work I had to do yesterday forced me out into the garden, and it was probably the most soothing thing I could have done for my soul.

(Continued in comments…)

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Sometime homesteading looks like homegrown vegetables and freshly laid eggs and sourdough rising on the counter.

And sometimes it looks like tears when you have to bury one of your animals 😔

Ryan went out to feed the bunnies yesterday and Flopsy -our little black and white bunny- was laying dead in the pen. There was no blood, other than a little bit by her mouth. Seems like something internal happened. We’re not sure what.

Evelyn helped lay her to rest yesterday. It was a hard weekend for her. First she stayed with grandma and went with her to put her sick, 17-year-old cat down. Then she came home to the news that Flopsy was gone.

But I believe she’s more resilient because of it. We talked to her about how death is a part of all life, and allowed her to go through the stages of grief and process it however she felt she needed to.

Homesteading isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and snuggly barnyard animals. Homesteading teaches us hard lessons and helps us to become stronger and more resilient by challenging us daily.

Yesterday was a sad, hard day. But I’m glad we got to experience it together as a family.

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A few years ago, Forbes published an article titled Dear Homesteaders, Self-Reliance is a Delusion.

Let’s unpack this…
What does self-reliant really mean? Is it actually achievable, or just a pipe dream?⁣

Over on the blog today I'm unpacking all of these thoughts, and the things I do know for sure as a homesteader, mother and member of a strong and self-reliant community. ⁣

But I really want to hear from you! Post in the comments below what self-reliance means in modern times, or what steps you're taking to be more self-reliant. ⁣

Read the full article here: https://thehouseandhomestead.com/what-is-self-reliance/ or at the link in my bio

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The spring issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine is out now!

It’s that time again...

The time when things begin ramping up in the garden, the barnyard and the home.

From trays of seedlings to baskets full of eggs, spring is in the air and I don’t know about you, but I’m here for it!

It’s also time for a brand new issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, and boy do we have a good one for you…

In the spring issue, we cover a diverse range of topics from how to trade your skills for land to the realities of going off-grid, from seed-starting to what to do with too many eggs, and from the simple joys of a homemade herbal cocktail to the sometimes heavy emotional toll of raising meat animals.

In this issue, you’ll find:
🌱 What it really takes to live off-grid, with Tammy Trayer of Trayer Wilderness
🌱How you can trade your skills for a piece of land with the SKIP program from the folks at Permies.com
🌱 Everything you need to know about seed-starting to set your garden up for success and abundance!
🌱 What to do with too many eggs! Author Mimi Dvorak-Smith shares 800+ ways to use ‘em up when your hens start laying.
🌱 How to make your own healthier cocktails with homemade botanical syrups
🌱 Dealing with the emotional toll of raising meat animals on the homestead

Visit modernhomesteadingmagazine.com to login to the library and read the spring issue (current subscribers) or subscribe for just $19.99/year to read this issue and gain instant access to our entire library of past issues!

#modernhomesteading #homesteading #selfsufficiency #springonthehomestead

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If you grow plants from seed (or if you want to), you’re likely going to want to start a few of them indoors. And if you start your seeds indoors, something that will make your life so much easier (and make your seedlings bigger, stronger and healthier) is an indoor growing stand with grow lights. ⁣

I've got a post I'm sharing with you today that will walk you through choosing the best type of lighting for whatever you're growing and then a step-by-step guide of how to make your grow stand, along with product recommendations if you want to make yours just like mine! ⁣

Ours can accommodate up to about 200 seedlings, but you can make yours as small or big as needed:)⁣

You can check out the post here https://thehouseandhomestead.com/how-to-build-indoor-growing-stand/ or at the link in my bio. ⁣

Let me know in the comments what you're growing new, or what you're most excited about in your planting journey this year!

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Theme of the Month: ADIDAS ⁣
No, not the textiles brand, it stands for: 𝗔𝗹𝗹 𝗗𝗮𝘆 𝗜 𝗗𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗺 𝗔𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗦𝗲𝗲𝗱𝘀 because it's officially March and we are in full swing around here! ⁣

Before you just start throwing seeds in the ground or into red solo cups on your windowsill, it’s important to take some time to read your seed packets and get to know each crop’s specific needs.⁣

Understanding the information on a seed packet is super important when it comes to gardening, especially if you want your plants to get a strong, healthy start and produce an abundance of food for you. And what gardener doesn’t want that?!⁣

Set yourself up for success and take a minute to read through my 𝘏𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥 & 𝘜𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘚𝘦𝘦𝘥 𝘗𝘢𝘤𝘬𝘦𝘵𝘴 𝘎𝘶𝘪𝘥𝘦, before your weekend gardening plans begin. ⁣

Grab the guide link in my bio, or get it here: https://thehouseandhomestead.com/how-to-read-seed-packets/⁣

Happy Planting:) ✨

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This all-natural homemade toothpaste recipe is made with just four simple ingredients that are good for both your body and your bank account!⁣

I’m on a personal mission to replace every commercially-made, toxic product in our home with homemade, all-natural alternatives. One-by-one, I’m getting closer every day.⁣

The benefit of making all-natural toothpaste at home is avoiding the unhealthy additives found in most commercial toothpastes by substituting ingredients with proven benefits for oral health.⁣

So if you’re also on a mission to rid your own home of toxic products and replace them with healthy, all-natural versions that actually work, then I highly recommend whipping up a batch of this all-natural homemade toothpaste.⁣

Wishing you health, wealth and squeaky clean teeth… The all-natural way;)⁣

You can find the recipe here https://thehouseandhomestead.com/all-natural-homemade-toothpaste-recipe/ or at the link in my bio.

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It's that time of year 🌱 seed starting season! ⁣

I know you can feel it too. The transition from winter to spring is truly a special time. It’s when life begins again. It’s the very first taste of all that lies ahead.⁣

So before you go just planting any and every seed you can get your hands on, I've got a list of 8 Things to Think About Before Starting Seeds, to get you off on the right food! ⁣

I will walk you through, planning, sowing, containers, watering, lighting and more, and if that's not enough you can download my Seed Starting Cheat Sheet at the end to lay it all out. ⁣

I hope you're as excited as I am for the beautiful Spring season that lies ahead:)⁣

You can find the list here https://thehouseandhomestead.com/before-starting-seeds/ or at the link in my bio.⁣

What are you planting this year? Anything new you've never tried before? Share with me in the comments!

25 5

Ever thought about growing mushrooms at home??

A great EASY way to get started is with one of these mushroom grow kits from @northsporemushrooms

All you need to do is cut open the pack, spray with a little water (the kits even come with a handy little spray bottle), and then sit back and watch the magic happen!

And seriously, watching mushrooms goes does feel a little like magic because they grow so fast you can practically see them growing, no time lapse necessary!

The mushrooms are ready for harvest in just a few days. No gardening experience or land necessary! Even a newbie homesteader in an apartment in the city can grow these babies!

This is a great way to dip your tow into the much bigger world of mushroom growing and harvesting, and to try out a few new varieties that you probably won’t find anywhere else.

I grew Pink Oyster Mushrooms, Lion’s Mane and Blue Oyster Mushrooms (all pictured here). I’ll be using the Pink Oyster Mushrooms in a rigatoni pasta for dinner tonight. I turned the Lion’s Mane into Lion’s Mane “crab cakes” and the Blue Oyster Mushrooms are delicious as part of a stir fry or sautéed in butter and spooned over sourdough toast.

If this reel intrigues you, you can grab your own mushroom grow kit (along with time of other mushroom related products, including fruiting blocks, outdoor log kits, medicinal tinctures, capsules and more) at northspore.com. Use code HOUSEANDHOMESTEAD for 10% off your order!

And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my interview with Louis Giller of North Spore Mushrooms in the winter issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine. You can also find my recipe for Lion’s Mane “Crab Cakes,” along with other delicious mushroom recipes and an in-depth feature on medicinal mushrooms including Lion’s Mane, Reishi, Chaga and Cordyceps in the winter issue.

Visit modernhomesteadingmagazine.com to subscribe or login to the library and read the current issue.

Mushrooms really are pure magic, don’t ya think? 🍄 ✨

#mushrooms #mushroomhead #shrooming #eatyourshrooms #mushroomsaremagic #modernhomesteading #urbanhomesteading #homegrown

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If you’ve been following me for any length of time, it probably comes as no surprise that I don’t exactly love relying on the grocery store to provide for me and my family, and that sentiment is only getting stronger as time goes on.⁣

Between supply chain issues, rising food costs and the plethora of unhealthy ingredients, chemicals and GMO foods on grocery store shelves, I’d rather toil in the garden and kitchen all year to grow and preserve my own food than have to rely 100% on grocery stores to provide for me.⁣

But that being said, we are in no way 100% self-sufficient so when I do go to the grocery story, I haveI have some ingredient guidelines in mind that I use when shopping for my family. ⁣

Check out my shopping tips, what I do and don't buy, and where and who I like to buy from here at this link https://thehouseandhomestead.com/healthy-grocery-shopping-tips/ or at the link in my bio.

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Usually by late February/early March, right about nowish, I’ve pretty much had enough of winter and the thought of enjoying a tropical fruit platter and a cold adult beverage on a sunny beach in *insert tropical vacation destination here* seems to be just about all I can think about...⁣

But with a newborn at home that's about the last thing on our to-do list right now! So this year, I will be visiting my tropical escape via my favorite Low-Sugar Mango Jam recipe. ⁣

If you do have tropical vacation plans, have a piña colada for me 🙏🏼, but if you don't then this recipe may be just what you need to "escape" for a few minutes into that tropical paradise:) 🥭🍹⁣

Check out the recipe here https://thehouseandhomestead.com/low-sugar-mango-jam-recipe/ or at the link in my bio. ⁣

Let me know how the recipe works for you, and if add in any additional fruits to change it up!

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