We all want to give our dogs the best, but few among us have unlimited funds.
As circumstances will have it, many of us consider switching to a lower-priced, budget-friendly dog food when times are tight, and we need to save a bit of money.
This is a completely acceptable strategy for redirecting your funds, but it’s important that you don’t compromise your dog’s health in the process.
Fear not, though — there’s a lot of fear-mongering in the dog food marketplace that will try to upsell you on the latest and greatest human-grade, all-natural, superfood-packed eats. And while these kinds of foods are certainly fantastic, the vast majority of dogs will get on just fine with something a bit easier on the wallet.
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.
Quick Picks: Best Budget-Friendly Dog Foods
- Diamond Naturals All Life Stages Chicken & Rice [Best Overall Budget-Friendly Dog Food]: High-quality protein, wholesome produce, and probiotics are just some of the awesome features of this cost-conscious canine kibble offering several recipes.
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Chicken & Brown Rice [Best Premium Budget-Friendly Dog Food]: This chicken-based dry food offers the best bang for your buck with quality protein, real produce, and high-tier grain.
- Purina Beyond Chicken & Barley[Best Limited Ingredient Recipe]: Free of corn, wheat, and soy, as well as artificial colors, dyes, flavors, and preservatives, this simple and wholesome formula is a solid, budget-conscious choice for sensitive systems.
- Iams ProActive Lamb & Rice [Most Affordable Budget-Friendly Dog Food]: Lamb is the top ingredient in this super budget-friendly food boasting extras like prebiotic fiber for healthy digestion and flaxseed for a boost of fatty acids.
The 11 Best Budget Dog Foods: Affordable Feeding
Below are 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. Diamond Naturals All Life Stages Chicken & Rice
About: Diamond Naturals All Life Stages Chicken & Rice is a high-quality dry dog food that won’t break the bank. Made without corn and wheat, this grain-inclusive kibble is formulated to contain all of the healthy ingredients you’d want while keeping out the stuff you’d rather not feed your dog, like artificial flavors, color, and preservatives.
- Cage-free chicken is the first ingredient
- Contains real fruits and vegetables for natural fiber and nutrients
- Includes proprietary probiotic blend to help support digestive health.
- Made in the USA
Available in 13 recipes and formulas, including Chicken & Rice, Lamb & Rice, and Beef Meal & Rice.
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Cracked Pearled Barley, White Rice...,
Dried Yeast, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Egg Product, Grain Sorghum, Dried Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Salmon Oil (Source Of DHA), Potassium Chloride, Salt, Dl-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Dried Chicory Root, 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, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid. Contains A Source Of Live (Viable), Naturally Occurring Microorganisms.
- Great bang for your buck with extras like probiotics
- Good selection of formulas for different life stages and needs
- Protein is always at the top of the ingredient list
- Picky eaters may need enticing to give it a try
- No exotic protein options
2. Nature’s Recipe Adult Lamb, Barley & Brown Rice
A grain-inclusive dry dog food featuring wholesome ingredients for less.
About: Offer up some tasty grub that won’t blow a big hole in your wallet with Nature’s Recipe Adult Lamb, Barley & Brown Rice. Made without artificial colors, preservatives, or flavors, this budget-friendly kibble is grain-inclusive for satiety and healthy digestion.
- Real meat is the first ingredient
- Made without corn, wheat, soy, or poultry by-products
- Contains a balanced blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for skin and coat health
- Made in the USA
Available in Lamb, Barley & Brown Rice and Chicken, Barley & Brown Rice.
Lamb, Chicken Meal, Brewers Rice, Barley, Oatmeal...,
Canola Meal, Rice Bran, Poultry Fat (preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Brown Rice, Turkey Meal, Natural Flavor, Salt, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Dl-methionine, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Ascorbic Acid (source Of Vitamin C), Thiamine Mononitrate, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Iodate), Choline Chloride, Brewers Dried Yeast, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid (used As A Preservative), Yucca Schidigera Extract, Rosemary Extract
- Offers solid nutrition at a decent price
- Taste is a hit for most pups
- Kibble size and shape work great for pups big and small
- Mixed protein nature can be a problem for dogs with sensitivities
- Limited proteins to choose from
3. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
Extras like antioxidant-rich LifeSource Bits and belly-supporting probiotics make this a quality choice for a few more doggy dollars.
About: Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection Formula is slightly more expensive than others on our list, but it provides a fair amount of perks. It’s made with some of the best ingredients available to help give your dog the healthiest diet possible.
- Real meat is always 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
Offered in 21 recipes and formulas, including Adult Chicken & Brown Rice, Adult Fish & Brown Rice, and Puppy Lamb & Oatmeal.
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.
- Packed with quality natural ingredients at a lower price than some specialty brands
- Contains a good mix of extras like probiotics and antioxidant-rich LifeSource Bits
- Wide variety of recipes and formulas to choose from
- Not as affordable as other kibbles
- Some dogs refuse to eat the LifeSource Bits
4. Purina ONE SmartBlend Tender Cuts in Gravy
An affordable canned canine creation made with real meat and vegetables in a delicious gravy.
About: Purina ONE SmartBlend Tender Cuts in Gravy offer a meaty mix of protein, vegetables, and grain you can see. This wet food’s savory broth provides extra hydration and easily spreads over food as a meal topper to kibble.
- Made with real meat and organs
- Packed in 13-ounce cans
- Can be served on its own or with kibble
- Made in the USA
Offered in Beef & Barley and Chicken & Brown Rice. A variety pack of the two is also available.
Beef And Chicken Broth, Beef, Liver, Wheat Gluten, Chicken...,
Pork Lungs, Carrots, Barley, Soy Flour, Dried Egg Product, Dried Spinach, Potassium Chloride, Tricalcium Phosphate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite), Guar Gum, Caramel Color, Locust Bean Gum, Choline, Vitamin E, Vitamin B-3, Vitamin B-1, Vitamin B-5, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin B-2, Vitamin A, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3, Vitamin B-7
- Offers a nutritious, focused list of ingredients for less
- Contains nutrient-rich organ meat
- Most pups give the taste a paw’s up
- Mixed protein recipe isn’t a good fit for every dog
- Some dogs aren’t a fan of the texture (Stew rather than pate-style wet food)
5. Diamond Naturals Skin & Coat
A salmon-based, cost-friendly kibble featuring omega fatty acids for supporting skin and coat health.
About: Diamond Naturals Skin & Coat‘s fatty acid-rich recipe is made specifically for pups with skin and coat issues, deriving its mix of omegas from fish, flaxseed, and more. Made with real produce like blueberries, spinach, and papaya, it’s also a good source of antioxidants to support your sniffer’s immune system.
- Salmon is the first ingredient
- Added probiotics give your dog’s belly a boost
- Contains no corn, wheat, soy, or chicken
- Made in the USA
Available in a single salmon-based recipe.
Salmon, Fish Meal, Potatoes, Lentils, Peas...,
Pea Flour, Canola Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Yeast, Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Dl-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, L-Carnitine, Kale, Chia Seed, Pumpkin, Blueberries, Oranges, Dried Kelp, Coconut, Spinach, Carrots, Papaya, 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, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid. Contains A Source Of Live (Viable), Naturally Occurring Microorganisms. The Facility In Which This Food Is Made Also Makes Food That May Contain Other Ingredients.
- Rich in fatty acids for healthy skin and a shiny coat
- Suitable for all life stages, making is a solid pick for multi-dog families
- Probiotics pack a punch for belly health
- Only offered in salmon
- Some dogs aren’t a fan of the flavor
6. Purina Beyond Chicken and Barley Dog Food
A short ingredient list that sticks to the good stuff makes this wallet-friendly food a win.
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 and lower price point, while your dog will love the delicious taste.
- Farm-raised, steroid-free chicken is the first listed ingredient
- Contains no chicken by-products, corn, wheat, or soy
- No artificial colors, dyes, flavors, or preservatives which may trigger food allergies
- Made in the USA
Available in Chicken & Barley and a grain-free Chicken & Egg.
Chicken, Rice, Whole Barley, Canola Meal, Chicken Meal...,
Whole Oat Meal, Beef Fat Preserved With Mixed-Tocopherols, Natural Flavor, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B-7), Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite, Choline Chloride, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product.
- Quality limited-ingredient option at a reasonable price
- Good source of glucosamine
- Kibble size and shape great for dogs of all sizes
- Bag sizes run small (the largest is only 24 pounds)
- Not every dog tolerates chicken
7. Purina ONE +Plus Vibrant Maturity
A senior-centered recipe made with brain-boosting ingredients and glucosamine for joint support.
About: Support your pup as he ages with Purina ONE +Plus Vibrant Maturity, a kibble with glucosamine for joint support and antioxidants for immune health. The crunchy texture helps keep his teeth strong between cleanings, while the kibblet size works well for dogs of all sizes.
- Real chicken is the first ingredient
- Meets AAFCO standards for adult dog maintenance
- Rich in fatty acids for skin support and a healthy coat
- Made in the USA
Offered in a single chicken-based recipe.
Chicken, Rice Flour, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal...,
Whole Grain Corn, Corn Germ Meal, Oat Meal, Vegetable Oil (Source of Medium-Chain Triglycerides), Whole Grain Wheat, Fish Meal (Source of Glucosamine), Pea Fiber, Poultry and Pork Digest, Beef Fat Naturally Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols, Glycerin, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Dried Egg Product, Mono and Dicalcium Phosphate, Caramel Color, Potassium Chloride, Dried Carrots, Dried Peas, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Biotin (Vitamin B-7), Choline Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Vitamin C), Sulfur, Garlic Oil
- Senior-focused nutrition at an affordable price
- Flavor is a win with most dogs
- Pet parents report the food is easy to chew for most seniors
- Corn isn’t everyone’s favorite ingredient (though nutritionally, it’s sound)
- Not every dog can tolerate chicken
8. Diamond Naturals Puppy Formula
A mix of tasty meat, real vegetables, and great extras like probiotics support a puppy's growth at a reasonable price.
About: Diamond Naturals Puppy Formula helps your pup grow into an adult doggo without costing an arm and a leg using quality protein, grains, and fresh produce. Featuring flaxseed and salmon oil, the kibble’s a great source of fatty acids for skin and coat health, including DHA for brain and vision development.
- Real meat is always the first ingredient
- Prebiotics and probiotics aid in puppy digestion
- Doesn’t include corn, wheat, or artificial flavors and colors
- Made in the USA
Available in Large Breed Puppy and Small & Medium Puppy.
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Ground White Rice, Chicken Fat, Cracked Pearled Barley...,
Egg Product, Dried Yeast, Dried Beet Pulp, Fish Meal, Ground Miscanthus Grass, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Salmon Oil (Source Of Dha), Salt, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Dried Chicory Root, 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, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid. Contains A Source Of Live (Viable), Naturally Occurring Microorganisms
- Super affordable considering the quality
- Also available in large breed puppy for puppies who will be over 70 pounds
- Contains perks like probiotics and prebiotics
- Some puppies aren’t a fan of the flavor
- Lacks protein options
9. Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain
A zero-grain kibble featuring the quality ingredients your pup deserves without blowing a hole in your budget.
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 and fortified with vitamins, minerals, and flaxseed for nose-to-tail health support of dogs needing a grain-free diet. Designed to be a simple, delicious, and nutritious dog food, Rachel Ray’s Dog Food is an affordable way to keep your canine fed and thriving.
- Real meat is the first ingredient
- Grain, gluten, and filler-free recipe ensures your dog’s calories come from nutritious ingredients
- Contains no artificial dyes, colors, flavors, or preservatives
- Made in the USA
Available in Turkey & Potato, Beef, Potato & Bison, Chicken & Sweet Potato, and Salmon & Sweet Potato.
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Dried Peas, Whole Dried Potatoes...,
Pea Protein, Pea Starch, Tapioca, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Whole Flaxseed, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Flavor, Fish Meal, Salt, Dicalcium Phosphate, Turkey Meal, Dried Cranberries, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Choline Chloride, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Biotin, Niacin, D-calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid
- Affordable pick for dogs needing a grain-free diet
- Made without artificial dyes and additives that may trigger food allergies
- Taste won woofin’ good reviews from doggos
- Mixed protein nature isn’t ideal for dogs with sensitivities
- Lacks a bounty of fruits and veggies seen in other grain-free offerings
10. Nutro Max Mini Chunks
A bargain blend of high-quality ingredients formed into little chunks for easy small breed snackin'.
About: Fill your little barker’s bowl without draining your wallet with Nutro Max Mini Chunks, a small-dog-focused food featuring tiny kibblets for easy eating. Made with lean protein for muscle health and healthy grains for digestion, it’s a balanced dry food for adult dogs.
- Vitamin and mineral blend support your pup’s immune system
- Good source of fatty acids for skin and coat health
- Doesn’t contain poultry by-products, corn, wheat, or soy protein
- Made in the USA with non-GMO ingredients
Available in a single chicken-based recipe.
Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Sorghum, Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Barley, Chicken...,
Split Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor, Whole Flaxseed, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Citric Acid (preservative), Mixed Tocopherols (preservative), Vitamin E Supplement, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Sodium Selenite, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Manganous Oxide, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract
- Affordable food designed specifically for small breeds
- Small kibble size perfect for petite pups
- Flavor is a tail-wagger for most dogs
- While chicken meal is an excellent source of protein, some prefer a whole protein at the top of the ingredient list
- Chicken is the only protein option
11. Iams Proactive Health
A cost-conscious dry kibble featuring real protein, healthy grains, and fatty acids.
About: While Iams isn’t often classified as high-quality dog food, it’s extremely affordable and offers a fairly decent ingredient list. Flaxseed provides omega fatty acids for skin and coat health, while natural fiber supports digestion.
- Lamb is the first listed ingredient to ensure your meat eater gets the nutrition he deserves
- Mix of carbohydrates provides energy and satiety
- Doesn’t have any artificial preservatives or flavor
- Made in the USA
Offered in Lamb & Rice and Chicken & Whole Grains.
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.
- One of the most affordable, quality foods available
- Real meat is the first ingredient
- All proteins are properly labels
- Contains controversial ingredients, like whole-grain corn and chicken by-product meal
- Limited protein options, all of which include chicken
There’s one other great affordable dog food option we weren’t able to include here: Amazon’s Wag Dog Food.
Check out our in-depth review of the food here!
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 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. Pet food from countries like China may contain harmful ingredients and are less likely to be the subject of recalls, putting pups at risk.
- 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. Chicken meal and other labeled meat meals are great sources of protein, but it’s always best to stick to whole proteins whenever possible.
- Good dog foods do not contain unidentified or vaguely characterized meat meals or by-products. While many owners often eschew meat meals and byproducts, these items can be valuable additions to good dog food. The important thing is that they are labeled 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. Many improve a food’s taste, too, in addition to providing natural fiber for digestion. 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 dog-safe 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 healthy gut flora for your dog.
Meat Meals and By-Products
Meat meals and meat by-products 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 natural sources of nutrition that many animals consume in the wild.
Omega Fatty Acids, Antioxidants, and Other Supplements
Many modern dog foods are supplemented with ingredients that provide dogs with omega fatty acids, antioxidants, chondroitin, glucosamine, or other valuable items.
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 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. A scoop of plain pumpkin adds a dash of fiber, too, aiding in digestive health.
Best Budget-Friendly Dog Foods FAQ
Finding quality dog food within your budget can be overwhelming. We’ve tackled the most commonly asked questions around the topic to make things a little easier.
What is the healthiest, most economical dog food?
The healthiest affordable dog food for your pup depends on your dog’s unique needs. As long as you’re feeding something from a reputable manufacturer that addresses your four-footer’s individual dietary needs and meets AAFCO standards for his life stage, you’re making a great choice.
When browsing individual foods, look for those featuring a whole, high-quality protein as the first ingredient and wholesome digestible carbohydrates like brown rice if your dog tolerates grain. Checking the ingredients also helps you get the most for your money, as many of today’s commercial dog foods feature extras like probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids, potentially eliminating supplements you may be using.
Some inexpensive dog foods that are still high quality come from Diamond Naturals, Rachael Ray Nutrish, and Iams, to name a few.
What cheap food can I feed my dog?
Dry kibble provides the most cost savings and a decent shelf life if stored properly. Cheap dog food brands offering kibble include Diamond Naturals, IAMS, Purina One, and Rachael Ray Nutrish. Always check the ingredients, but for the most part, these brands aim for balanced nutrition with natural ingredients without breaking the bank.
What do you feed a dog on a budget?
Shopping on a budget starts with picking the right type of dog food. Dry kibble (dry dog food) is the cheapest form and the best option for pet parents on a budget, as it’s a shelf-stable product typically fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. Selecting a bigger bag can also offer cost savings in the long run. If you’re looking for wet food, look for larger cans to get more bang for your buck, as canned food can be super pricey.
When browsing brands, look for those that offer balanced nutrition with natural ingredients wherever possible, like whole proteins, real produce, and grains. Sticking to those using healthy ingredients costs a little more than the cheapest options, but it can save you money in vet bills, especially if your dog has sensitivities. Some brands also offer extras that could save you on supplements, such as salmon oil, probiotics, and glucosamine.
Cheap dog food brands that still offer excellent nutrition for adult dogs include Diamond Naturals, Purina ONE, and Rachael Ray Nutrish.
Is it OK to feed your dog cheap dog food?
Absolutely. Remember that fed is best. Don’t feel pressured into buying pricey products if they’re not within your budget. In truth, several cheap dog foods offer a more balanced diet than some boutique brands that cost twice as much or more.
As you can see, there are several good choices for keeping your four-footer 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.
June 20, 2021
We just got a new puppy. Trying to decide what food to feed her. She s 8 week s old. I have always used purnia puppy chow. Is there a better choice for a puppy food?
June 21, 2021
Hey there, Joyce.
Puppy Chow would be OK, but there are better options. The Blue Buffalo or Diamond foods discussed above would be two good choices, but be sure to select a food that’s formulated for your pup’s life stage (puppy) and run your decision by your vet just to be sure.
Best of luck!
December 20, 2019
I have studied pet nutrition, work for a dog trainer and part time at a pet store that has us train with all the reps. The minute I saw your list of recommendations for food I knew to toss it all. They are all among THE WORST and most recalled foods. You should be ashamed!
December 20, 2019
Thanks for sharing your opinion, Lauren. But those are all very high-quality foods for owners on a budget, despite your thoughts to the contrary.
June 28, 2020
Ben I see u have a Rottweiler and so do I. Bentley will be 2 in November. Wondering what dog food u feed your Rottie? I currently have him on Fromm Large Breed Puppy, need to switch to an Adult version Is there another brand that is better than Fromm?
June 29, 2020
Fromm is a pretty good brand — nothing wrong with it at all.
But I feed my pupper Blue Buffalo Large Breed Adult.
Seems to work great for us.
December 6, 2020
Considering your comment & attemp to shame Ben, I’m interested to know what’s your recommendation for the best budget friendly dog foods?
November 25, 2019
Be sure to mention that chicken is oftentimes one of the allergy foods for dogs. How do you know? Oftentimes if a dog is constantly scratching at his ears is one symptom.