As a pet parent you want to provide the best quality food for your dog, but when the purse strings are tight it can be a struggle. But there are some clever ways that you can find best budget dog food that's healthy for your pooch while staying within your budget.
With so many options of dog food brands out there in different price ranges, some of them are worth the cost, some are overpriced, and others are classified as the best dog food for the money considering the ingredients and the price tag.
Other than choosing those specific best budget dog food brands, there are some tips that you can utilize to find good dog food when you're on a tight budget. I've been a pet owner on a budget for many years, which forced me to develop my own strategy for shopping for dog foods without going into debt. Here are my best tips if you're in a similar situation.
25 Tips to Pick the Best Budget Dog Food
1. Download Apps that Offer Bonus Savings
Depending on where you shop and how you shop for dog food, you can use smartphone apps for additional savings. For example, Target offers the Cartwheel app which provides coupons directly to your phone that can be combined with manufacturer coupons. Target is a great place to shop for pet foods and pet products, and they often have deals, big sales and even publish dog food coupons on their app and site.
2. Look at Ingredients
If you find yourself choosing between two brands of dog food that are within your budget, pay attention to the ingredients and guaranteed analysis. Foods with more useless filler ingredients are going to last a shorter time than foods with more whole foods and more available nutrients because serving sizes of these pet foods are generally larger.
3. Check AAFCO Labeling
Be careful when buying the most cheap dog food brands because not all foods are labeled for complete and balanced nutrition. Pet foods that are labeled for supplementary feeding only are generally more affordable because they don’t contain a full nutrition profile and they are an optional purchase (not a must-have) for pet parents.
4. Research the Manufacturer
When researching foods within your budget, make sure that you know who is manufacturing or packaging that specific dog food brand. Most pet food companies outsource production and packaging so while two foods may seem unconnected, they may both be produced in the same plant. This matters because while you may think a food in your budget is better because it has had no recalls, it may be manufactured by a company with a history of many dog food recalls of other brands.
5. Check Online Reviews
Get online and look at the reviews of foods within your budget. Read dog food review websites; sites like Amazon and Chewy have their own reviews section – read those. What are other pet parents saying? Are there more negative reviews than positive? Do dogs with the same health concerns as yours seem to thrive on the food?
Check some proven dog food lists like pet food expert Sarah's Top Dog Food Brands and Best Puppy Food Brands, as well as at least three other separate reputable review sources to get a fair idea of what others think about the food you are contemplating.
6. Prioritize What You Need Vs. What You Want
We would all like to give our dogs the best food possible, but our budgetary constraints don’t always make that feasible. For example, when my allergy-prone and picky Labrador retriever’s kangaroo and red lentil food shot up to $90 a bag, it was something I could no longer cram into my budget. So, I made a list of what he needed from his new food versus what I wanted.
The list looked something like this:
|Buffalo or bison protein source||Unique protein source|
|Manufacturer with a pristine recall record||Grain-Free|
|Price between $40 and $50||Price between $50 and $60|
|Locally available food||No chicken|
|Low sodium content|
|Low phosphorus content|
This helped me to come up with some affordable food options that still met my pup’s nutritional needs and my dog enjoyed the taste of it.
7. Price Shop
Once you have narrowed down your food choices to one or two, price shop to get the best deal you can. Compare basic pricing as well as special offers and auto-delivery prices. Check websites that have the best dog food deals and see if there's anything on sale.
8. Watch Sales
Speaking of deals, remember that virtually every retail store releases their sales fliers on Sunday, most online retailers will do the same. Keep an eye out for these fliers so that you can find the best prices on your food of choice. Just remember, good sale prices make foods sell faster so be prepared to buy your food the moment you see it on sale.
9. Buy in Bulk
If larger bags of your food are available (and practical), bigger bags usually offer a discount over smaller bags. Dog food can last for a while, so buy bigger and save a few dollars extra per bag or (if your food is carried in warehouse clubs shop there and buy BIG). You can also store all your food in a special dog food container to preserve its freshness for longer.
10. Use Coupons
Keep an eye on those Sunday sales fliers because they also contain coupons! The average pet food coupon ranges from $1 to $2 per bag and in the long-run they can cut your cost considerably. Keep in mind, though, it is generally only the commercial brand dog foods that offer coupon savings, not the artisan or specialty foods.
Don’t forget to check out our list of best dog food coupon sites where we have a huge amount of sites that offer great deals on pet foods. Amazon coupons is one of the most popular choices since they often offer additional discounts on certain dog food brands.
If you’re comfortable ordering your dog’s food online, look at stores offering auto-delivery services. Most online retailers offer a discount on automated delivery depending on how much you order. Do your best to sign up for the auto-delivery with the biggest savings that also offers free shipping on “auto-ship” orders.
Some of the sites offering auto-ship discounts include Amazon.com (called “Subscribe”), Chewy.com, PetCo.com, PetSmart.com, and PetFlow.com. And don’t be afraid to cancel auto-delivery if you find another online retailer with a bigger discount.
12. Download a Coupon Plug-In for Your Browser and Use Comparison Shopping Sites to Find the Best Prices
If you shop for your pet foods online, try downloading a coupon plug-in for your browser. There are several out there which find you the best prices on products and applies the best available coupon code to save you more; however, I found that recently they don't do the job as good as they used to, and I find better deals myself by browsing the sites or Googling for the best deals on dog food and products.
13. Shop Daily Deals and Lightning Deals
In addition to dog food sales and coupons, keep an eye on daily deals and lightning deals on websites like Amazon and Chewy. Check every day for upcoming “pet deals” to see if any of the foods you feed are included in sales that day. Here's an Amazon page for it.
14. Setup Alerts
If the dog food you are feeding is slated for a limited time sale on sites like Amazon, use the Amazon browser plug-in to alert you as soon as the food goes on sale by showing you a pop-up window. Lightning deals often last just a few hours but dog food deals sell out faster than this most of the time. You can download the tracking app for this known as the “Amazon Assistant” – download it form here.
15. Look into Reward Programs
Some dog food companies and some dog food stores offer rewards on your purchases. For stores like PetCo, this may come in the form of reward points that you can redeem later to get money off dog food. For some pet food companies and specialty pet food stores this is a “buy x bags of food, get your x bag free.”
I often use a local specialty dog food store that offers a “buy 9 bags of dog food, get the 10th free” deal, so at least once a year I receive a free 30lb bag of dog food.
16. Consider Home Cooking
If your dog has complicated dietary needs that leave you buying expensive dog food, consider learning how to home cook for your dog instead. Home cooking can often be less expensive than specialty kibble especially when you shop at warehouse clubs. You can also find local “raw food co-ops” to source your proteins and get great prices. Another great way to home cook is to simply purchase one portion more of the food you are having for dinner yourself (assuming it’s dog-friendly food). Cook your pup’s portion separately without seasoning and add the necessary supplements and there you have it!
The Top Dog Tips homemade dog food recipes library is a great resource for learning how to home cook for your dog, where to start and has a bunch of recipe videos.
17. Contact the Company for Coupons
Some companies don’t openly offer coupons in Sunday fliers or on their website, but if you contact the company via e-mail and ask, they will often send you coupons via mail. This is a great way to save a few extra dollars per bag and most companies will send you a few coupons at a time.
18. Request Samples
If you’re not too sure about a new budget food but have been contemplating it for your pup, request free dog food samples. If it’s a food that your veterinarian carries, ask them about samples. If it’s a food that isn’t offered by your veterinarian, contact the company to ask for samples before you switch your dog’s diet.
This will get you cheap or free dog food samples, but it will also let you determine whether a food agrees with your dog’s digestive system. That way you don’t lose money buying a large bag if it’s not a suitable food for your pup.
19. Use Promotions to Your Advantage
One way to save plenty when you’re in a bind is to use promotions to your advantage and be a little smart about it.
For example, many online pet stores offer gift cards when you sign up for a new auto-delivery plan. Sign up for a plan, get your first delivery, your gift card will be emailed to you, then cancel your auto-delivery. You can then use the gift card for your next purchase and once that bag of food is finished, sign up for a new auto-delivery during the next promotional period to get another gift card reward!
20. Contact Pet Food Banks
If your budget is smaller than a shoestring budget and your dog is running low on food, consider contacting local pet food banks. These banks exist to help owners who are having financial difficulties to keep their pets fed. This works to the communities benefit as well because it keeps the local shelter population down since when pet parents can’t afford their dog’s food, they often give their dog up to the shelter.
To find a pet food bank close to you contact your local humane society or head over to Google and search for “local pet food bank” or “local pet food pantry”. This will pull up a list of available resources close to you.
Don’t be ashamed to contact a pet food bank, those who work there will be happy to help you to keep your dog in a safe, warm home with a family they love.
21. Look into Generic Brand Dog Foods
If you have always fed name brand dog foods, look into generic brand foods. Establish your budget and have a list of ingredients in your name brand food on hand. Now, as you shop for generic foods, compare this list of ingredients to the generic food brands. You may find that a generic food has the identical ingredient list but a much lower price tag!
22. Sign Up for E-mail Alerts Online
I mentioned above that most online pet stores release sales fliers on Sundays but not all of them do. Head over to your favorite online pet store’s website and sign up for their newsletter or e-mail notifications to ensure that you receive a notice when your favorite best budget dog foods go on sale.
If your dog food is on sale at a ridiculously low price, stockpile! Buy as much as you are allowed to buy but no more than you can readily use within 6 months. Also, make sure to store unopened food in a cool dark space away from moisture and possible pests or use a dog food container specially designed for pet food storage.
24. Buy with a Cashback or Rewards Credit Card
If you have a cashback or rewards credit card, you can also save money in the long-term by purchasing your pet food with that card. Be sure to pay off the food every month so you don’t get charged interest, and allow reward points to accumulate for redemption.
Finally, one of the best ways to get help with affording your dog’s food is to write to the company that makes it. Let them know that you are a loyal customer, how their pet food has helped your pup, and ask if they have any assistance or savings programs available, explaining that you are currently in a financial pinch. You'd be surprised how some companies will be glad to help in one way or another.