If you want to provide your pooch with a perfect yet inexpensive diet, check out this article on the best cheap dog food in 2022.
Keeping a dog can be costly in many cases. Therefore, it is no wonder that many pet owners want to tackle feeding their dogs on a budget.
But it is essential not to confuse the cheap with the low quality. Of course, too cheap dog food will probably not provide proper nutrition for your pup.
I have collected the 10 best cheap dog foods that are also of excellent quality in my article. My favorite is the Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Formula. But I also recommend the other products with a calm heart.
I tend to choose recipes very carefully because I believe that dogs ’health starts with proper nutrition.
Is there any good cheap dog food on the market?
The first and most important thing I want to make clear is that you should never decide based on price when purchasing.
The price tag does not necessarily predict the quality of a particular dog food brand. I’ve come across quite affordable and balanced dog food that contains all the nutrients your dogs need.
And unfortunately, the opposite also happens. There are expensive brands whose products contain cheap and useless fillers, by-products, or downright harmful artificial additives. Of course, these are very extreme cases.
Overall, an expensive product is likely to contain premium and carefully selected ingredients.
But there are other costs, like marketing, packaging, and promotion. These are extras that can raise the price. Because of this, an average or below average quality formula may cost the same or more than a good quality product. This is another plus reason not to judge quality by price.
In each case, you need to study the list of ingredients. Fortunately, nowadays, more and more dog food manufacturers are trying to compete with other companies qualitatively. If you choose skillfully, you can find a product that is healthy for your dog, wholesome, delicious, and spares your wallet.
Finding the best diet for your dog is not easy. You have to consider several aspects, e.g., activity, breed, age, health condition, etc. If you want to make the best decision possible, check out my comprehensive guide on how to choose the best dog food.
Is there such a thing as too cheap dog food?
As I have already mentioned, it is not always worth judging dog food quality based on price.
However, if a 30 lbs package is cheaper than $ 20-25, that’s definitely not a good sign. This means that the manufacturer uses the lowest quality source of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in its recipe. Be sure to avoid these.
The ideal price range is between $ 30 and $ 60 for a large 30 lbs package. There are more expensive ones, with even better quality, (e.g., Ziwi Peak dog food) but that is not the subject of this article.
Are life stages important considerations when choosing dog food?
Of course, your dog’s life stage is an important consideration when choosing the right food. This is because different life stages have different nutritional needs. Of course, no matter how old your dog is, you will need the right amount and quality of protein, carbs, and fats. I will detail these below.
- Dog food for puppies: Dogs less than one year old can be considered puppies. Usually, puppies need more calories to grow. Make sure the extra calories are quality protein sources and fats. Almost every brand has puppy formulas, so look for these products when choosing.
- Dog food for adults: Dogs between the ages of about 1 and 6 can be considered adults. The proper protein-fat ratio is also significant for them. On the other hand, slightly fewer calories are needed to maintain muscle mass. You should definitely avoid getting your dog obese. You can ask your veterinarian about proper nutrition or follow the nutritional recommendations on the product packaging.
- Dog food for seniors: Older dogs have a slower metabolism, so they need fewer calories. The protein content is still important. But keeping your dog’s ideal weight requires less fat and more fiber. Because of the joints’ support, you should also address the glucosamine and chondroitin content of dog food.
Other dog food formulas
Other types of dog food do not fall into any of the above categories. I have collected these for you.
- High-performance dog food: There are active dogs (e.g., sporting dogs or hunting dogs) who need so-called high-performance dog food. These formulas are high in protein and fat and also contain other useful ingredients.
- Weight management formulas: Thanks to the modern lifestyle, obesity is becoming more common among dogs. Not only is this aesthetically disadvantageous, but it also carries a lot of health risks. Therefore, if your dog weighs more than recommended, you may want to get weight-management food for him. These recipes have moderated fat and higher fiber content.
Things to consider when buying affordable dog food
The basis of your dog’s health is a proper diet. Therefore, there are aspects that you need to pay special attention to. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on this. The following factors may also apply to cheap dog food.
High-quality animal protein
Dogs are omnivores, but for them, animal sources are the most valuable. The primary source of protein and even the first ingredient should be animal meat. This is one of the most important considerations when choosing dog food.
Meat by-products and vegetable proteins cannot be considered sources of amino acids and proteins of adequate quality.
Meat meals are condemned by many but believe me, they are just as valuable ingredients as real meat. Moreover, even their glucosamine and chondroitin content is high, which is good news for your dog’s joints.
Although carbohydrates are not essential for dogs, they can still contain useful nutrients. Their fiber, vitamin, and mineral content contribute to the overall health of dogs.
Today, the grain-free diet is trendy. However, if this is not justified by any allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances, you do not need to stick to such a diet. Grains are very nutritious and healthy ingredients (e.g., oatmeal or barley).
However, if your dog has a sensitive stomach, a good alternative could be potatoes, sweet potatoes, or various legumes.
Fats are great sources of energy for dogs, and they play a key role in many physiological processes. Animal fats are very healthy and make food delicious for our four-legged friends.
I need to talk about omega3 and omega 6 fatty acids. These are essential nutrients that reduce inflammation and also promote skin, coat, and brain health. Excellent omega sources are fish and oils from various plants (e.g., flaxseed).
Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
It would be difficult to describe in a single article, how much different micronutrients do for your dog’s health. They support the immune system, overall health, the digestive system, and every single cell of your dog. Antioxidants help a lot in cell regeneration and in the prevention of diseases and cancer.
The best natural sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are fresh vegetables and fruits. But some manufacturers also add these ingredients to recipes as a supplement.
The requirement set by the AAFCO can be a good starting point for the quality of dog food. Look for the so-called AAFCO statement on the packaging. This reassures you that the particular formula is balanced and meets your dog’s basic nutritional needs.
Your dog’s health conditions
Not all dogs have the same needs. Changes may be required in certain medical cases and health conditions. Of course, be sure to check with your veterinarian at this time.
Ingredients to avoid when buying cheap dog food
Manufacturers often save on production costs by using cheap ingredients in the production of dog food. Of course, this isn’t always true, but you might want to look at the ingredient list. In addition to low-quality fillers, you should also avoid other ingredients if you want the best for your dog. So let’s look at these:
- Fillers: There are ingredients we call fillers. These include wheat, corn, soy, husk, etc. Ingredients of this nature are not necessarily harmful, but their nutritional value is shallow. Also, many dogs are sensitive to these, so it’s best to avoid them.
- By-products: Meat by-products are unfit for human consumption. Why should you give them to your dog? Their quality and origin are uncontrollable. They are low in nutritional value and cause sensitization or allergic reactions in many dogs. It is better to avoid by-products when buying dog food.
- Artificial ingredients: Artificial preservatives, colors, flavor enhancers, and other additives are harmful to dogs. For example, a preservative called BHA is a known potential carcinogen. But other additives also often cause allergies or sensitivities in dogs.
Tips on how to get the most suitable cheap dog food
- As I have already described, reading the ingredients is key. If you train yourself as a pet owner, after a while, you will be aware of what to avoid and what not. Quality meat, digestible carbohydrates, and animal fat are the most important. Artificial additives are immediate exclusion factors. Of course, there are other aspects that I have already described in my article. The point is to educate yourself.
- Almost every major retailer or food delivery service usually has promotions, promotions, or discounts. There’s nothing better than getting your dog’s favorite brand 20-30% cheaper.
- Larger packaging is usually more economical. I think you know that. However, when trying a new dog food, you should first choose the smallest possible packaging. If the selected formula works, you can order the largest possible package. I recommend online retailers as they also have home delivery.
- Dry food is usually cheaper than wet food. Try to find dry dog food that is of the right quality, and your dog likes it too. Of the protein sources, chicken is the cheapest. Therefore, the best possible alternative is dry dog food with chicken. Of course, if your dog is allergic to chicken, choose another alternative.
Commonly used terms in the dog food industry
- Complete or balanced dog food: Complete or complete formulations contain all the nutrients your dogs need. These include high-quality proteins, digestible carbohydrates, omega fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Usually, these products also have the AAFCO statement.
- Chicken or other meat meals: These ingredients are dried and ground-up versions of meat. Usually, in addition to meat, they also contain other parts of the animal, such as skin and bone. However, they are much better protein sources than by-products because they do not contain feathers, feet, or nails. Contrary to belief, meat meals are excellent ingredients.
- Open formula: Products of this nature contain unnamed protein sources. It would help if you avoided open formulas as their quality is uncontrollable. Also, there is a risk that they may contain a source of protein to which your dog is allergic.
- Mixers: These are filler dog food products that are not considered to be of good quality. They may lack a lot of useful nutrients. Therefore, they alone are unsuitable for feeding your dog.
Frequently asked questions
Surely you still have questions about this topic. Below I have collected the most common ones for you.
Is homemade dog food cheaper than commercial?
No, homemade dog food is usually more expensive than commercial ones. Manufacturers buy raw materials in bulk so they can keep prices competitive. Of course, for the average person, this is not possible.
Is wet or dry dog food better?
Both dry and wet dog food has advantages and disadvantages. In terms of price, clearly dry food is better. Wet dog food should be chosen if your dog needs extra moisture in the diet. Or this type is better even if your pooch has some kind of dental problem. Dry food, on the other hand, is good for tooth health as it promotes chewing.
Are the cheapest dog foods good for dogs?
There are dog food brands whose products cost up to $ 10 or less. These are definitely worth avoiding. Such formulas are not considered complete, and your dog may develop deficiency diseases. An acceptable quality product costs about min $30 in a 30 lbs package.
Are there cheap but good quality dog food brands?
Fortunately, more and more companies can produce good quality dog food at competitive prices. Excellent examples are Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo, Victor, or Purina. Of course, there are other brands, but these are the most popular.
Are there healthy and cheap dog foods?
There are excellent quality dog food brands that contain healthy ingredients at affordable prices. Examples include Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo, or American Journey. Of course, what will be healthy for your dog depends on several factors. You may want to consult your veterinarian.
What makes certain dog foods cheap?
Premium dog foods are usually more expensive due to the quality of the ingredients. Manufacturers can save and reduce the price in many ways. Find the right middle ground and don’t choose a product with too poor quality, cheap ingredients. Fortunately, plenty of dog food manufacturers can solve the cost reduction by using the right ingredients.
What are the Best Cheap Dog Foods?
1. Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Formula
3. Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Salmon, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe
4. VICTOR Purpose Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food
5. Nutro Natural Choice Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe
6. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
7. Merrick Grain-Free Puppy Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe
8. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
9. American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe
10 Best Affordable dog foods on the market
So far, we’ve seen what to look for when looking for the best dog food on a tight budget. I have described what ingredients you should look for and which ones you should avoid.
Based on these, you will probably already be able to choose the most suitable one for your pooch. However, to make your job easier, I have collected 10 formulas for you. They are all affordable and of impeccable quality. At the end of the review section, of course, I choose the product I like the most.
Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Formula
- The first 5 ingredients are Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Ground White Rice, Dried Yeast, Egg Product
- Made for adult dogs with real beef protein
- Contains added vitamins and powerful antioxidants from real fruits and vegetables
- Made in the USA
- Affordable price
This product is not accidentally at the top of my list. It’s available in huge 40 lbs bags, and on top of all that, it’s quite affordable. All this with quite good ingredients.
The main source of protein is Beef Meal. It is very nutritious animal meat that also contains cartilage. Therefore, it is a great source of glucosamine, thus helping joint health.
The recipe includes carbs like Grain Sorghum, Ground White Rice, Rice Bran, or Cracked Pearled Barley. If your dog is not allergic to grains, these are great carbs.They are complex and nutritious.
Ingredients include Dried Yeast. This can have a good effect on the digestive system of dogs and also makes the food tastier. However, if your pup is allergic to yeast or prone to yeast allergy, this formula may not be the best choice.
Chicken Fat and Flaxseed provide the omega fatty acid profile of the product. This is very important for the health of the skin and coat.
And that’s not all. Added fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This guarantees that your dog’s immune system will function properly.
Also, the recipe does not contain additives, fillers, and artificial ingredients. The protein content is 25%, and the fat content is 15%. This is just ideal for dogs.
I highly recommend this product if you are looking for cheap but healthy dog food.
Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6
- The first 5 ingredients are Lamb Meal, Brown Rice, Ground Rice, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Chicken Fat
- A limited ingredient diet
- Formulated for adult dogs and all sizes of breeds
- Free of grains, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meal, fillers, and added artificial ingredients
- Made with added vitamins & minerals
I really like diets with limited ingredients. This is because your dog only gets the most important nutrient sources. These are a single protein source, and some other ingredients.
Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 Natural Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Limited Ingredient Recipe is a premium quality product. However, its price is absolutely affordable. Let’s see the ingredients:
Lamb Meal is an excellent source of protein that contains all the essential amino acids. Also, it is very digestible and does not cause sensitization or allergies in dogs.
The carbohydrate sources are Brown Rice and Ground Rice. These are voluminous grains that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
The fat content of the product is given by Chicken Fat, which is tasty and healthy for dogs. When it comes to health: the recipe has plenty of added vitamins and minerals. This is great for supporting the immune system in dogs. Be sure to consider this product!
Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Salmon, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe
- The first 5 ingredients are Salmon, Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Menhaden Fish Meal, Pea Starch
- A grain-free limited ingredient diet
- Free of grains, corn, wheat, or artificial colors, and flavors
- Made with added vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients
- Contains antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables
Although it is not a limited ingredient, dry dog food, it still has relatively few sources of protein and carbohydrates. But that’s not the only reason I chose it for my list. In addition to its affordable price, it contains really quality ingredients.
The main sources of protein are Salmon and Menhaden Fish Meal which are very healthy and nutritious meats. They do not cause allergies in dogs and also contain a lot of omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have a positive effect on the skin and coat of dogs.
Another source of fat is Poultry Fat. While I usually wouldn’t say I like unnamed sources, I’m making an exception here now. This is because fats do not cause allergic reactions, so their origin is less important than in proteins.
The carbohydrate sources are Garbanzo Beans, Peas, and Pea Starch. These are legumes that are well digested and contribute to your dog’s digestive system’s functioning with their fiber content. Besides, they contain plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Also, the recipe contributes to the health of your dog’s immune system with plenty of added vitamins and minerals.
VICTOR Purpose Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food
- The first 5 ingredients are Beef Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Whole Grain Millet, Grain Sorghum, Chicken Fat
- Sourced and Made in the USA
- Contains glucosamine and chondroitin
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, protein, and amino acids
- Highly digestible
If you have an old dog, this recipe is for you. In old age, the nutritional needs of dogs change.
They need fewer calories, and certain nutrients should be included in the diet made for them. Examples include fiber, which helps maintain a healthy weight. But such are glucosamine and chondroitin, which are the “vitamins” of the joints.
Vitamins and minerals are responsible for the proper functioning of the immune system. Well, this recipe from Victor meets these conditions to the maximum.
Beef Meal is an outstanding source of protein that provides all the essential amino acids. Not to mention, it contains glucosamine and chondroitin.
Brown Rice, Whole Grain Millet, and Grain Sorghum are highly digestible carbohydrates full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Other fiber sources can also be found in the recipe, such as Alfalfa Meal or Tomato Pomace.
But that’s not all. Ingredients include many fruits and vegetables as well as probiotics. The latter help a lot in the proper functioning of the digestive system of dogs. The bottom line is that this is a very healthy and inexpensive product for senior dogs.
Nutro Natural Choice Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe
- The first 5 ingredients are Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Barley, Split Peas, Brewers Rice
- Made with non-GMO ingredients
- Formulated for senior dogs
- Free of chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat, or soy
- Contains calcium, and essential antioxidants
This is another senior dog formula. That is, it meets similar needs as the previous Victor product.
Let’s see the ingredients: Chicken and Chicken Meal are really high-quality sources of protein. Besides, Chicken Meal contains a lot of glucosamine and chondroitin. This properly maintains the joints of elderly dogs.
The product contains healthy, complex, and wholesome grains such as Barley, Brewers Rice, Brown Rice, and Sorghum. All of them are excellent sources of nutrients, and if your dog is not allergic to grains, they are well digestible.
The ingredients include plenty of vegetables, vitamins, and minerals that will underpin the health of your elderly pooch. So overall, this is a highly recommended product.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
- The first 5 ingredients are Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal
- Contains calcium, phosphorus, and essential vitamins
- Features glucosamine for joint health
- Added vitamins, chelated minerals, and antioxidants
- Free of corn, wheat, soy, or chicken by-product meals
If I compile a list based on an aspect, I consider Blue Buffalo products in almost every case. This is because the formulas in this brand have been carefully designed with veterinarians and other experts’ help. Plus, Blue dog food is very affordable compared to its quality.
Let’s see the ingredients: Deboned Chicken and Chicken Meal are excellent protein sources that provide your dog with all the essential amino acids. Besides, they are easily digestible, and their glucosamine content supports joint health.
Brown Rice, Barley, and Oatmeal are grains that provide your dog with good quality carbs. Besides, their nutrient content is also high.
The product provides a balanced omega fatty acid profile thanks to Chicken Fat and Flaxseed.
The LifeSource Bits developed by Blue Buffalo is a precious blend. It contains plenty of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for the dog’s immune system’s proper functioning. But the product also contains vitamins and minerals in the form of vegetables and fruits.
And the added prebiotics help the digestive system function.
Merrick Grain-Free Puppy Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe
- The first 5 ingredients are Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Salmon Meal
- Grain-free dry food for puppies
- Ideal combination of protein and healthy fats
- Includes glucosamine and chondroitin
- Contains omega fatty acids
The right amount and quality of protein for growth are important for puppies. Also, they need enough calories and plenty of vitamins as well as minerals. This puppy formula from Merrick is, therefore, an ideal choice. I think the price is within the affordable category.
But let’s see the positives of the product. The 28% protein content is mainly given by Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Salmon Meal, Turkey Meal, and Dried Egg Product. These are good quality animal protein sources that contain all the important amino acids for growth.
The product is grain-free, and the carbohydrates are provided by Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Peas, and Tapioca. So if your puppy has a sensitive stomach or is allergic, be sure to follow this recipe.
But that’s not all the benefits of this formula. The added fruits, vegetables, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics underpin the health of every canine’s immune system. Highly recommended product!
Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- The first 5 ingredients are Water Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas
- Contains vitamins and antioxidants from real fruits and vegetables
- Free of grain, corn, wheat, filler, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
- Contains probiotics to support the digestive system
- Made in the USA
Taste of the Wild is one of my favorite brands when it comes to quality and affordability.
This product has an extremely high protein content. Ingredients include premium protein sources such as Water Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal. These provide not only the essential amino acids but also plenty of glucosamine for your dog.
The product is grain-free and contains digestible complex carbohydrates such as Sweet Potatoes, Peas, and Potatoes.
But that’s not all. Because of the added fruits and vegetables; your dog will get all the vital vitamins and minerals. And prebiotics support the digestive system as well as the immune system.
American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe
- The first 5 ingredients are Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes
- Free of corn, wheat, and soy
- Contains fruits and vegetables
- Provides omega-3 and 6 fatty acids
- Helps maintain lean muscle mass
American Journey is a dog food brand owned by Chewy. It produces excellent quality products at great prices.
This recipe contains Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, and Turkey Meal as a protein source. They provide not only amino acids but also glucosamine and omega 3 fatty acids for dogs. The latter has a good effect on the health of the skin and coat.
The formula also contains high-quality complex carbohydrate sources such as Peas, Sweet Potatoes, and Chickpeas.
Chicken Fat is a great source of fatty acids, and added fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and minerals help your immune system function. Highly recommended product!
Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets
- The first 5 ingredients are Salmon, Menhaden Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Cassava Flour, Potatoes
- A limited-ingredient dry dog food
- Free of peas, pea protein, lentils, legumes, corn, wheat, or soy
- Made in the USA
- Formulated for adult dogs and all sizes of breeds
The last member on my list is a Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Dog Food. The quality ingredients are paired with quite an affordable price, which is why you should consider this recipe as well.
Salmon and Menhaden Fish Meal are sources of protein that have a beneficial effect on dogs’ skin and coat with the help of plenty of omega fatty acids.
Sweet Potatoes, Cassava Flour, and Potatoes are grain-free carbohydrates, making them ideal for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
The product contains Sunflower Oil and Flaxseed, which are also great sources of omega.
And the added vitamins and minerals take care of the health of your dog’s immune system.
My final choice
I really hope my article helped you choose the best cheap dog food. As you can see, my list included brands and recipes that are inexpensive and impeccable in quality.
My favorite was the Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Formula. This dog food is absolutely affordable and provides all the valuable nutrients for your dog.
But of course, the other products are also outstanding. If you have a senior dog or puppy, you don’t have to worry either. The senior and puppy formulas on my list are also perfect choices.
Remember, we pet owners need to lay the groundwork for the health of our dogs. And the best way to do that is with proper nutrition.