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How to Save Money on Dog Food (for Dog Owners on a Budget)

Katy is a frugal, loving dog owner looking for great stuff for her pups. She scours the stores and the internet for great products.

So, you want to give your dog quality food that will give him or her a long, happy life? But dog food gets expensive. Check out these ways to give them the same quality of food for a lower price.

Consider your options for saving money by shopping online.

Consider your options for saving money by shopping online.

1. Stay Away From Chain Stores

Dog food from a pet supply chain is always overpriced. The first part of saving money on food for your pet is realizing that the cat and dog food you can buy at your local pet supply chain store is at least 10% more expensive than what you should be paying. Prices fluctuate based on sales, which is not what you want to subject your wallet to. Instead, get smart about where you buy their food and how you buy their food.

2. Find Cheaper Dog Food Online

With the online marketplace offering many household items, the internet is often the best place to find the lowest prices. If you are set on a brand that works for your dog's nutritional needs and your budget, find that brand from an online retailer and compare it to your local pet store. The price will be a little better or at least the same at the online store. Plus, you get the food delivered straight to your door, which adds the bonus of additional time savings!

For cheaper big brands of dog food and cat food, Walmart's online store has very competitive prices and a decent shipping speed. For more select brands, you can try Chewy or PetSmart online to see their prices. A bulk buy of over $50 is enough to avoid the shipping fee for most online pet food stores, so make sure the company you use at least offers that. Otherwise, look elsewhere. Read more on using Chewy for dog food deals.

Always consider your dog's nutritional needs.

Always consider your dog's nutritional needs.

3. Homemade Dog Food: Does It Save Money?

Making your own dog food can save you money in the right circumstance, but that's not usually why folks choose to do it. Changing your dog to a homemade diet can be a challenge. Finding the time to make it and figuring out methods of storing and getting the recipe right all take extra work. Weigh these factors with the possibility that making your own food can be even more expensive than buying dry food from a bag.

The draw of making your own dog food is that you know exactly what goes into it. The food brands that are super transparent about their ingredients and use only quality, grain-free foods are going to be very pricey. If you want super quality ingredients to feed your pup, making your own food will help you save money.

In order to make homemade dog food cheaper than buying it at the store, you will have to use a good amount of "filler" ingredients like rice. Rice is not inherently bad for most dog breeds; it just does not add a lot of nutritional or energy value to their diets. A dog's metabolism runs on protein and fats; they can't make use of carbs as well as humans can.

Remember: You're feeding a carnivore here! Stick to high-protein ingredients like meat and fish. Even with a high-protein meal, your dog will be missing essential nutrients that are often added to the processed dry food. You can get these as supplements from your pet supply store, but that will be a bit pricey. A cheaper alternative is to buy dry food to supplement your homemade food. Mix it in to give your dog the extra vitamins and minerals, and make the homemade stuff go a little further—a win for your dog's health and your wallet.

Consider making homemade dog food.

Consider making homemade dog food.

4. Mix Dog Food Brands

This is a tip I use for my dogs. They get a high-quality brand that is more expensive, but I know gives them a lot of quality protein and fats. I can afford this because I mix in a cheaper "filler" brand to make the more expensive food last longer.

Getting a good mix of food that is still healthy for your best friend requires understanding their nutritional needs. There's nothing wrong with the cheap brands you find at the grocery store. They have a lot of "filler" in the form of grains that are less expensive to produce than meat.

A domestic dog is able to digest the grains in the filler brands just fine. It doesn't do any actual harm; it just means they are getting less energy overall. So, if you mix this with grain-free dog food that is high in protein, your dog is still getting the nutrients he needs with the energy from the higher quality food.

5. Buy Dry Dog Food in Bulk

You can keep buying your dog the same quality of food for less by purchasing it in bulk. If your local pet store has your preferred brand of food at a reasonable price, you can keep an eye out for coupons. "Buy one get one" or even "buy one get one half off" turns out to be a really solid deal if you are willing to buy enough.

When you see a good deal, read the fine print of the coupon to decide if it applies to more than one bag; if you can, use it on several orders. You know you will need it eventually, and it will save you money (and time going to the store) in the future.

The key to buying in bulk is a good storing solution. You need to keep the dog food in a dry area that little critters don't have access to. It's not just your dog you need to keep out; it's the mice and ants and other small scavengers (depending on your area). The garage might not be a suitable place for bulk food. Consider bringing it into a closet or crawlspace if you can afford the room.

Take Precautions When Altering Your Dog's Diet

  • Avoid Drastic Dietary Changes: Please be cautious of your dog's health when choosing their diet. Any drastic change in your dog's diet is likely to give them stomach problems if they have never had that specific food before. Mitigate this by starting with small quantities of new food mixed in with their old for a few days to let their digestive system adapt. This also has the added benefit of encouraging picky eaters to get used to a new taste.
  • Minimize Contamination: If you are incorporating homemade food into their meals, take precautions to stop bacteria growth during cooking and storage.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Katy Medium


Megan Nelson from Spokane on April 13, 2018:

Its good that you do, and to be honest I wasnt aware of dog allergies until I adopted a dog who had them which of course has made me eye that ingredients list like a hawk. I forgot to mention it before and I apologize for the late statement, but great article over all.

Katy Medium (author) from Denver, CO on April 12, 2018:

Megan, thanks for those warnings. You're absolutely right: beware the filler brands!

The Pedigree food I use works well because I understand what's in it and neither of my dogs have had allergy problems with it before I started mixing.

Megan Nelson from Spokane on April 11, 2018:

You want to be careful about the "Filler" brands that you add to your dog food to make it last longer. There have been several recalls from cheap brands such as Gravy Train and Kibbles N' Bits that contained the same drugs used in euthanasia for dogs. Not to mention, feeding them two different dog foods can make harder to target grain and other food allergies when you're using two different brands. Dog food allergies have been more common because of cheaper brands that use cheap ingredients. While it's understandable that money is an issue with higher quality dog food, it's also important to keep your pet healthy over cutting corners. ( Plus you'll save more money when you don't have to take your dog to the vet all the time!)

Source on the dog food recall: