Quick Picks: Best Budget Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Chicken & Brown Rice [Best Budget + Quality] The best bang for your buck, Blue Buffalo offers tons of chicken-based protein along with high-tier grains like brown rice.
- Iams ProActive Lamb & Rice [Cheapest Dog Food] This super budget-friendly food boasts lamb as the #1 ingredient and even has a few extras like prebiotics and flaxseed for an omega-boost.
- Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice [Best Beef Recipe] Chicken tends to be the cheapest protein, but Diamon Naturals Beef Meal offers an affordable option for beef-loving dogs, with beef as the #1 ingredient, real fruits and veggies, and no corn, wheat, or artificial flavors.
- Purina Beyond Simply Chicken & Barley [Best Limited Ingredient Recipe] Free of corn, wheat, soy, as well as no artificial colors, dyes, flavors or preservatives, this simple and wholesome formula is ideal for those who need a budget limited ingredient recipe.
We all want to give our dogs the best, but few among us have unlimited funds.
Accordingly, many of us consider switching to a lower-priced dog food when times are tight and we need to save a bit of money.
While this is an acceptable strategy for redirecting your funds, it is important that you do not compromise your dog’s health in the process.
Below, we’ll recommend some great budget-friendly dog foods while also exploring which high-quality dog food perks can be sacrificed safely when you need a budget dog food option.
5 Best Budget Dog Foods: Affordable Feeding
Below are five foods that are affordably priced, yet still have enough nutritional value to make them worthwhile dietary staples.
Try to select the best one for your pup and his needs when making your final selection.
1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Chicken & Brown Rice
An affordable kibble of chicken & healthy grains
Quality budget dog food with a number of high-end bonuses, like probiotics, fruits & veggies, and supplemented vitamins.
About: Blue Buffalo’s Chicken and Brown Rice formula provides great nutrition at a reasonably affordable price. It is made with some of the best ingredients available, to help give your dog the healthiest diet possible.
- Deboned chicken – a great protein for dogs — is the first listed ingredient
- Made with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables for improved health and well-being
- Supplemented with vitamins, minerals and probiotics to avoid deficiencies and promote healthy digestion
- Made in the USA under strict quality control standards and regulations
Blue Buffalo is thoroughly packed with great ingredients, including deboned chicken, flaxseed and several different probiotics. Additionally, it contains a number of nutritious fruits and vegetables, including three types of berries, apples, pomegranate, pumpkin and spinach.
Blue Buffalo is a great food, but it isn’t quite as affordable as the other choices in this review. However, it is probably the highest quality food among the five detailed here.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal...,
Pea Starch, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Peas, Pea Protein, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potatoes, Dried Chicory Root, Pea Fiber, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Garlic, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.
2. Purina Beyond Simply 9 Natural White Meat Chicken & Whole Barley Dog Food
This affordable Purina formula features no corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
About: Purina Beyond Natural Chicken and Barley is made with all of the good things you’d want for your dog, with very few of the things you wouldn’t want. You’ll love the limited ingredient list, while your dog will love the delicious taste.
- Real chicken is the first listed ingredient, as you’d expect from a high-quality dog food
- Contains no chicken byproducts, but it does include glucosamine-rich chicken meal to support joint health
- No corn, wheat or soy included in the recipe
- No artificial colors, dyes, flavors or preservatives which may trigger food allergies
Purina Beyond Simply 9 is a very affordably priced food that still includes all of the basic necessities you’d want in a high-quality dog food.
As you’d expect of a budget-friendly dog food, Purina Beyond Simply 9 includes a few inferior ingredients. For example, while not unhealthy in the strictest sense of the word, brewers rice is a relatively substandard carbohydrate source. Nevertheless, it remains a suitable choice when you need to tighten your belt.
3. Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Natural Dog Food
Grain-free kibble with US-raised turkey
A grain-free formula with no artificial dyes, colors, or preservatives. Includes meat as the first three ingredients.
About: Rachel Ray’s Zero Grain Dog Food is not only free of cereal grains, but it is also made without glutens of any type.
Designed to be a simple, delicious and nutritious dog food, Rachel Ray’s Dog Food is an affordable way to ensure your dog remains healthy.
- Made with US-raised turkey (the first listed ingredient)
- Grain, gluten and filler free recipe ensures your dog’s calories come from nutritious ingredients
- Contains no artificial dyes, colors, flavors are preservatives
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals and flaxseeds to provide a balanced diet with plenty of omega-3s
If you are a budget-minded owner, who’d like to feed your dog a grain-free diet that features real turkey as the first ingredient, Rachel Ray’s Nutrish is an excellent option. Additionally, because it’s made without the artificial dyes and additives of many low-cost foods, it is less likely to trigger food allergies.
While Nutrish is made with several high-quality ingredients, it lacks the bounty of fruits and vegetables that some others in the same price range have.
Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Dried Peas, Tapioca Starch...,
Whole Dry Potatoes, Poultry Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Whole Flaxseed, Natural Chicken Flavor, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Choline Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid.
4. Iams ProActive Health
Ultra-affordable lamb-based food
Features lamb as the #1 ingredient, along with prebiotics, flaxseed, and no artificial preservatives.
About: While Iams isn’t often classified as a high-quality dog food, it’s extreme affordable and offers a fairly decent ingredient list, with no extra bells and whistles.
- Lamb is the first listed ingredient to ensure your meat-eater gets the nutrition he deserves
- Includes prebiotics for healthy digestion, along with flaxseed and other ingredients with omega fatty acids
- No artificial preservatives
Iams is an incredibly affordable option – at the time of writing this it’s the cheapest dog food on this list. Despite its low cost, it’s not terrible quality, with real meat listed as the #1 ingredient, contains a reasonable amount of protein, and no mystery meat ingredients.
There are a few ingredients that aren’t very desirable, such as whole grain corn, chicken by-product meal, and caramel coloring. Corn is not a very nutritious grain, but it comes behind heartier grains like brewers rice and barley on the ingredient list.
Lamb, Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Ground Whole Grain Barley, Ground Whole Grain Corn...,
Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Meal, Dried Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor, Brewers Dried Yeast, Dried Egg Product, Caramel Color, Potassium Chloride, Carrots, Flaxseed, Choline Chloride, L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, Fructooligosaccharides, Calcium Carbonate, L-Tryptophan, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, L-Carnitine, Mixed Tocopherols (a preservative), Zinc Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, Niacin Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2), Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Rosemary Extract, Manganous Oxide, Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide.
5. Diamond Naturals
Beef-based budget food
An affordable beef recipe with a decent amount of protein and healthy grains with no corn, wheat, or fillers.
About: Diamond Naturals is another affordable, yet fairly decent-quality dry dog food. It’s formulated to contain all of the healthy ingredients you’d want, while keeping out of the artificial junk you’d rather not feed your dog.
- Beef meal listed as the #1 ingredient
- Contains real fruits and vegetables including peas, kale, blueberries and coconut
- Includes proprietary probiotic blend to help support digestive health.
- Made without corn, wheat, filler, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
Diamond Naturals is a great option for owners on a budget, and this is an affordable option for owners who want a beef-based recipe (although it should be noted – chicken fat is an ingredient)
The inclusion of chicken fat may be a problem for owners who are looking for an affordable beef dry food devoid of any other proteins.
Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Ground White Rice, Dried Yeast, Egg Product...,
Rice Bran, Cracked Pearled Barley, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Dl-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Kale, Chia Seed, Pumpkin, Blueberries, Oranges, Quinoa, Dried Kelp, Coconut, Spinach, Carrots, Papaya, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Animalis Fermentation Product, Vitamin E Supplement, Beta Carotene, Chondroitin Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid. Contains A Source Of Live (Viable), Naturally Occurring Microorganisms.
Characteristics of a Good Dog Food
While your desire to save money on dog food is perfectly understandable, it is still imperative that you provide your dog with a high-quality food.
That means keeping the following concepts and guidelines in mind when making your choice:
- Only purchase dog foods made in the USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia or New Zealand. Foods made in these countries are subject to much stricter safety standards than foods made in developing nations are. They are therefore less likely to be the subject of recalls or contain dangerous substances.
- Avoid dog foods that contain artificial colors, flavors or other additives. Good dog foods will appeal to your dog without these unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients. Many dogs, for example, suffer from food allergies, courtesy of the artificial dyes in their food.
- Good dog foods are meat-based recipes that list a whole protein source first. For example, rather than chicken meal, good foods list whole chicken as their first ingredient.
- Good dog foods do not contain unidentified or vaguely characterized meat meals or byproducts. While meat meals and byproducts are often eschewed by many owners, these items can be valuable additions to a good dog food. The important thing is that they are labelled correctly. For example, chicken meal is a perfectly acceptable ingredient; poultry meal is not.
- Good dog foods include a variety of fruits and vegetables. These items help supply carbohydrates, additional proteins and a broad array of vitamins and minerals to your dog and many help improve the food’s taste. Colorful fruits – tomatoes, blueberries and carrots – are particularly valuable, as they are typically packed with antioxidants.
Where Do You Compromise For Budget-Friendly Dog Food?
If manufacturers could make a premium dog food for a low price, they’d already be doing so. But, high-quality ingredients cost more money than lower quality ingredients do; so, budget-priced dog foods almost invariably cut corners while crafting their recipes.
The trick is to distinguish those that make acceptable compromises to reduce the cost of the food and which ones do not.
Some of the acceptable compromises are discussed below.
Grain-free dog foods are have become quite popular in recent years among owners, and they are likely superior choices to those packed with wheat and corn.
But unless your dog is specifically allergic to a given grain, you may want to consider a food that contains grains to save money.
Plus, with news of the FDA identifying a correlation between grain-free foods and DCM (Canine dilated cardiomyopathy), grain-free dog food has fallen out of favor and may not even be the best choice for your dog.
While grain-inclusive dog foods are now more widely-recommended, you’ll still want to be sure that a real protein is still the first listed ingredient.
You’ll also always want to opt for foods with whole grains rather than processed grains. Whole grains contain more fiber and fewer calories per pound, relative to their processed counterparts.
You should also be aware that different grains have varying nutritional values. Certain grains are better for your pup than others.
Healthier grains include:
- Brown rice
On the other hand, lesser quality grains should be avoided, such as:
- Brewer’s rice
An increasing number of premium dog foods are including probiotic ingredients.
These are thought to help improve digestion, regulate your pup’s colon and reduce the number of harmful bacteria living in your dog’s digestive tract.
They are especially helpful for breeds that have known digestive issues, such as dachshunds and German shepherds, but they may be helpful for just about any breed or combination thereof.
However, like all other ingredients, canine probiotics cost money.
This means that most budget-priced brands forego them to keep their costs low. But while they are important and helpful when included in a dog food recipe, their absence does not disqualify a food from consideration.
If you like, you can mix in a small amount of non-sweetened yogurt with your dog’s food (just be sure that your dog tolerates yogurt before doing so as a matter of practice).
Some yogurts are full of probiotic bacteria, and this may prove to be a more economical way of fostering a healthy gut flora for your dog.
Meat Meals and Byproducts
Meat meals and meat byproducts are often avoided by dog owners, as the methods used to make these products are often less than appetizing.
However, these ingredients often represent a safe, easy and cost-effective method for raising the protein content of a food.
The important thing to remember is that there is a world of difference between chicken meal (for example) and meat meal.
Chicken meal will consist primarily of dehydrated chicken muscle, while meat meal could consist of just about any creature from any source (including a few particularly unsavory sources, such as roadkill or euthanized pets).
By products are similar, except that they often contain things like innards or feet. While these items may seem gross to humans, they are valuable sources of nutrition, that many animals consume in the wild.
Omega Fatty Acids, Antioxidants and Other Supplements
Many of these offer a number of positive benefits, but they are also expensive.
Accordingly, it may be wise to select foods that lack these ingredients, unless your dog has a specific need for them, such as dry skin or joint problems.
As with probiotics, it may be more cost-effective to supplement your dog’s food with fish oil yourself and other substances that contain omega fatty acids.
Similarly, a few blueberries or a tomato slice can provide some antioxidant punch for foods that lack them.
As you can see, there are several good choices for dog owners interested in keeping their pet healthy, while working with a limited budget. Any of the above products would make an excellent choice for your dog; just remember to take his specific needs into account before making a choice.
We’d love to hear about the foods you’ve used when trying to stay under budget. Tell us all about them in the comments below.