If you’re looking for cheap dog food recipes that use simple ingredients, we’ve got you covered.
Below, you’ll find 12 ideas for homemade dog food that won’t break your budget.
While most do require meat, we’ve included a couple that use ingredients that aren’t flying off the shelves during a food shortage (which seem to be more and more common these days).
Take a look at the considerations below so that you know what to do and NOT to do when making homemade dog food, then read on for the recipes.
What to consider before trying cheap dog food recipes
In normal times, the words “cheap dog food recipes” would never even come out of our mouths.
After all, “cheap” isn’t something you want from something that provides fundamental nutrition to your dog.
Not to mention that making your own dog food requires a major balancing act.
With constant pet food shortages these days (and even bigger “shortages” in our budgets), we sometimes have to make do with what we have to work with.
However, that doesn’t mean you should completely disregard your dog’s health needs! So, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
Talk to your vet first
Before you start whipping up cheap dog food recipes, call your vet.
If you’re currently under orders to stay home, you may not need to make a trip into the office.
Just ask them to look over your dog’s records and let you know if there are any special nutritional needs to keep in mind.
Consider your dog’s allergies
It sounds obvious, but remember to factor in your dog’s allergies, even if they’re mild?
With meat shortages in grocery stores, it’s tempting to think, “What’s the worst that can happen if he eats a little beef?”
My dog is allergic to beef, and I can tell you- the best-case scenario is that she throws up her entire meal- totally undigested.
Invest in a good all-in-one supplement
Supplements alone can’t give your dogs all of the nutrition they need, but they can definitely help fill in the gaps. If you’re looking for an all-around great supplement to support your dog’s skin, coat, and joints, I recommend Omega Chews from Vet Naturals.
Exhaust your other options first
If you already have your dog on a vet-approved homemade food diet, you can skip this. You’ve already decided it’s what’s best for your dog and done your homework.
For the rest of us, though, homemade food should be our last resort. As I said, it’s not as easy as it sounds to make great healthy dog food on our own. So, check out this list of places to buy dog food during a shortage first.
Use it to see if you can find something comparable to your dog’s normal diet at a price you can currently afford.
If you simply cannot find an alternative, then it’s time to try these cheap dog food recipes.
Cheap Dog Food Recipes to Try During Food & Money Shortages
Below are 12 cheap dog food recipes that help you get nutrition into your pup’s belly without breaking your budget.
Remember what I said above, though. This is a “desperate times/desperate measures” thing, not an “everyday” thing.
The first one is my top choice and a great place to start. I’ve given you some tips to make it work during a food shortage.
If that doesn’t work for you, though, then check out the list full list for more ideas.
Top pick: Crockpot Chicken Homemade Dog Food
Our Easy Crockpot Chicken Homemade Dog Food Recipe uses wholesome ingredients like chicken and brown rice.
I promise this isn’t just my top pick because it’s our recipe. We did a ton of research before coming up with it, so it’s one that I feel super confident about recommending.
You can swap out the chicken for another protein if necessary, like beef, lamb, or turkey.
Heck, you can even use venison if you’re a hunter.
If you want to use chicken and can’t find boneless chicken breasts (it’s completely gone from our stores), use whatever chicken you can find.
We’ve used chicken thighs, drumsticks, and leg quarters in a pinch. We boil the meat first and pick the bones clean.
Just make sure you safely discard the bones. We actually put them in the garage garbage can because Freya will pick our kitchen garbage!
2. Dog breakfast recipe
This Homemade breakfast dog food recipe uses lentils, leftover (or canned chicken) and frozen veggies.
3. Ground Turkey & Lentils
No chicken? Try this ground turkey and lentils recipe. You’ll just need one of most of the fruits and veggies.
4. Dog-Safe Chili Stew Recipe
Regular chili made for people isn’t really good for dogs because it often contains onions and other toxic ingredients. This one is a much safer option. If you want to save money by turning this into a recipe that both you and your dog can enjoy, just make a double batch. Separate out your dog’s portion, then add spices to the rest.
- 4 chicken breasts (or thighs if you want to save a bit more money)
- 1 cup kidney beans, drained
- 1 cup black beans, drained
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 4 cups chicken broth
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces and place them in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the drained kidney beans, black beans, and diced carrots to the bowl with the chicken.
- Add the tomato paste and chicken broth to the mixing bowl and stir all the ingredients together until they are well combined.
- Pour the mixture into a baking dish and spread it evenly.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and place it in the preheated oven.
- Bake the dog food for about 45-60 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and the vegetables are soft.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven and allow it to cool completely.
- Once the dog food has cooled, you can serve it to your furry friend or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
5. Turkey-based hypoallergenic dog food
If your dog has food allergies, this one is very easy to customize because you can use just about any type of ground protein.
- 3 lbs ground turkey (you can also use chicken or beef if you prefer)
- 1 cup quinoa (or other whole-grain)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shredded carrot
- 1 shredded zucchini
- 1 shredded butternut squash
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- Rinse the quinoa under cold water and add it to a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is fully absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through.
- While the quinoa is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the ground turkey or chicken to the skillet and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.
- Add the shredded carrot, zucchini, and butternut squash to the skillet and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened.
- In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil over low heat.
- Add the pumpkin puree to the saucepan and stir to combine.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, ground turkey or chicken, cooked vegetables, and pumpkin-coconut oil mixture. Stir well to combine.
- Allow the dog food mixture to cool completely before serving to your furry friend. You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
This turkey-based recipe is made for a pup with allergies. Again, you’ll just need one of most of the veggies listed. Check out Where’s the Frenchie for another variation on this cheap dog food recipe.
6. Beef Crock Pot Dog Food Recipe
Most of the ingredients in this crock pot recipe are super cheap and easy to find. The beef is the biggest challenge, but you can sub it with turkey.
7. Peanut Butter Breakfast Scramble for Dogs
Canine Journal’s peanut butter breakfast scramble (about halfway down the page) is the epitome of cheap dog food recipes for desperate times.
It uses eggs, peanut butter, bread, and vegetables. Use any bread and veggies you have on hand. For the PB, just check the label to make sure it’s free of xylitol.
8. Make-Ahead Doggy Stew
This doggy stew uses chicken thighs & livers and frozen veggies for the bulk of it.
9. Chili Cheese Bake for Your Dog AND You
The best cheap dog food recipes are ones that you can eat, too, like this chili cheese bake recipe.
10. Meatloaf Dog Food Recipe
This easy 5-ingredient meatloaf recipe for dogs uses ground beef, but you can swap it to turkey.
Use whatever veggies/fruits you have on hand for the “grated mixed vegetables” portion.
11. Cheap Raw Dog Food Recipe
If you prefer to feed a raw diet, this cheap meat patties recipe may be just what you need. Use whatever dog-safe ground meat you can find.
Please read: Pros and Cons of a Raw Diet first!
12. Survival Food for Dogs
This survival food recipe is exactly what it sounds like- life-sustaining emergency rations for super desperate times. In other words, a last resort.
Check out their video for tips on putting together an emergency survival kit for pets.
How to Save Money on Dog Food
Knowing how to save money on dog food is a major plus even when money isn’t super tight! So, let’s finish off with a few tips on how to do just that.
Coupons and in-store sales:
Combine the two for the best savings! If you have been living under a rock, let me be the one to tell you that the Sunday paper has a boatload of coupons. Granted there are not always coupons for dog food, but you should look through anyway.
Along the same lines, keep an eye out for Chewy discounts and coupons, Amazon deals, and other online coupons.
Places like BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s Club are great places to get your dog food. The quantity is huge and lasts a while and at a great price. You do have to have a membership for these stores, which is paid yearly and often very inexpensive compared to the savings you will have.
However, there are often mailers that go out offering a free 30-60-day trial membership. Check them out and see if this might be the best way to save money on dog food!
Contact the companies:
Contact your favorite dog food brands via email and let them know how much you love their dog food and they will send you coupons and maybe even some free samples. This one is pretty hit or miss these days, unfortunately, but still worth a try.
With most of these recipes, you can swap out certain ingredients for what you have on hand or can easily find.
For example, all of the meats are interchangeable. If your dog can’t tolerate chicken or turkey, use beef.
Likewise, if it calls for beef and your dog is allergic, use ground turkey.
Most of the veggies are swappable, too, but try to find something with comparable nutrition.
Last, I just want to reiterate that making your own dog food isn’t something you should do everyday unless you’ve done your research.
Dogs need a well-balanced diet that differs from our own, and high-quality kibble takes their needs into account.
However, like I said, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Given the choice between no food and less-than-perfect food, something is definitely better than nothing!