Affordable raw dog food

How much does raw dog food cost?

Some people would like to feed their dogs a raw food diet, but the cost is often a barrier.

Many of the commercial raw dog food brands cost more than $175 per month to feed my 70-pound Lab mix Ace. He needs roughly 1.5 pounds of raw food per day.

If you buy your own ingredients for a homemade raw dog food diet, you should be able to spend less, but you may need to stock up while the meat is on sale. It also takes time to cut and portion the meat into meals or “recipes.”

I’m used to feeding my dogs a homemade raw diet, so I thought I’d share some money-saving ideas. These are geared towards people who are new to raw feeding or are interested in getting started. Please share your own suggestions in the comments if you are already feeding your dog raw. I am always still learning!

Do your own research and talk to your dog’s vet before switching him to a raw diet. I am not a vet or a nutritionist.

Affordable raw dog food – how to save money on raw food for dogs

Elsie the golden retriever lying in the grass - affordable raw dog food

1. Talk to others who feed their dogs raw food.

Find someone in your area who feeds her dogs raw food. Raw feeders generally love to share their experiences with others, and you might be surprised how many raw feeders there actually are. Put out a Facebook post to see if any of your contacts know someone who feeds raw and what their ideas are for affordable raw dog food.

You could post a message in the pets section of Craigslist, or get in contact with some of the rescue/shelter volunteers in your area. The members of dog obedience clubs are another good resource.

Many training clubs are associated with the AKC, and some of the members will likely be breeders or owners of working dogs. Chances are, one of them feeds her dogs raw food.

Once you find a few others who feed their dogs raw food, ask them what protein sources they use, where they shop and how they save money.

Want to learn more about raw feeding? Click here to download my guide + 10 easy recipes.

2. Invest in more freezer space.

I recommend doing at least a four-week raw feeding trial to make sure you are up for raw feeding long term. It’s not for everyone. After that, it’s well worth it to invest in more freezer space so you can buy meat in bulk and store it.

Craigslist is a great place to search for used freezers. I checked my local listings, and there were some freezers listed for around $100-200 ranging from 8 to 17 cubic feet. You may even want to check the classifieds section of this thing called the newspaper.

Larger retail stores may also have reasonably priced freezers, and make sure to ask about price matching.

3. Buy large quantities of meat while it’s on sale.

Once you know your dog does OK with a certain protein source, take advantage of sales. Buy as much meat as you can reasonably afford and store, especially when it’s on sale.

Turkeys are often on sale after Thanksgiving, one reader mentioned on That Mutt’s Facebook page. Chicken and beef are often on sale after the Fourth of July, another reader suggested.

My husband even noticed how the price of supermarket beef goes down in our area at the start of Christmas break. We assume this is because 15,000 college students leave town and therefore stores have fewer people to buy the meat.

Also, take advantage of specials and sales from commercial raw dog food companies. Sometimes they offer free shipping or 10 or 15% off or buy-one-get-one deals.

4. Whole carcasses are generally a better deal.

It’s generally cheaper to buy whole chickens or turkeys than it is to buy chicken thighs or chicken breasts or organ meat separately. You can chop or grind the carcass into smaller portions yourself if you want.

How to find affordable raw dog food

5. Take notes and shop around.

When you are first buying your meat, check out all the options in your area. Don’t forget local butcher shops, ethnic markets and places such as Target, Wal-Mart and Costco. If you visit the same grocery stores regularly, you will see patterns for when the meat is on sale.

Jot down some notes each time you shop so you remember where the best deals were, the quality of the meat, how much you bought and on which day of the week you bought it. Maybe one store has a sale on chicken every Friday, for example.

Also, just ask the workers when you can get the best deals. Grocery stores often get their shipments in on a regular schedule and sales may follow a pattern.

Here are some of the prices I found at my local grocery stores for non-organic meat:

  • Whole chicken: $1.85 per pound
  • Whole chicken, cut into eight pieces: $1.85 per pound
  • Chicken organs (like liver): $2.25-$2.44 per pound
  • Whole turkey:  $1.29 per pound
  • Turkey parts (necks, gizzards, organs): $1.39 per pound
  • Pork ribs and neck bones: $1.49 per pound (See my post: is raw pork safe for dogs?)
  • Ground beef: $3.79 per pound

6. Get a Costco or Sam’s Club membership.

It’s worth it to pay the roughly $55 annual membership to a warehouse-style “club” such as Costco where you may find some good opportunities to buy meat in bulk for less money overall.

Here are some of the meat prices I saw at Costco – definitely the best deal so far:

  • Whole chicken: $0.99 per pound
  • Chicken thighs: $0.99 per pound
  • Ground beef: $2.99 per pound

7. Keep your dog’s meals as simple as possible.

Don’t worry about buying several protein sources or extra supplements for now. Stick to one protein source such as chicken and give your dog a few weeks to adjust. This will allow you to buy one type of meat in bulk. If you decide to add veggies, introduce them one at a time and keep things simple.

If you want your dog to have more variety, introduce each protein source slowly. Eventually you may be comfortable feeding two or three different types of protein. Use these as “standard” meals for your dog and rotate them based on what you find on sale.

8. Don’t spend a fortune on supplements.

People get too caught up on feeding their dogs a “balanced” diet. Yes, balance is important for overall health and nutrition. But that doesn’t mean every single meal needs to be perfect.

It’s fine to add vitamins or supplements to your dog’s meals, but don’t worry about that so much when you are first starting out. Even if you give your dog supplements, he may not need them in every single meal.

I wrote an ebook on raw dog food, and it’s a great guide to follow for those just starting out. It also includes 10 easy recipes.

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9. Search for local meat delivery options.

If you live in a metro area, search online for local meat-delivery companies (such as Schwan’s). A company in my area delivers regional, natural “meat by the box” right to your door.

The meat is less expensive than it would be in most grocery stores, the quality is just as good or better, and you can buy it in large quantities such as 40-pound cases.

Meat-delivery companies can charge less because they obtain the meat in bulk, and they have less overhead costs compared to supermarkets. Some will even take custom orders.

Using this option in my area, the meat comes to about $1.25 to $1.75 per pound, depending on what you buy.

10. Talk with local butchers.

Reach out to local butchers and see if they can offer you a deal. There are just certain animal parts that humans don’t want to eat (pig hearts, anyone?), but these protein sources are healthy and appealing to dogs! Butchers are sometimes willing to sell the “less desired” meat to dog owners for close to nothing, just to get rid of it.

11. Ask hunters for extra meat.

Hunters can be a great source for free meat. Use Craigslist or Facebook to get in touch with hunters in your area. Some have more meat than they know what to do with and will gladly give it away. You can feed just about any meat to a dog – deer, elk, duck, rabbit, moose, goose, pheasant, you name it!

Affordable raw dog food - How to save money on raw dog food

12. It’s OK to feed kibble every now and then.

I know some people are going to say you should never mix kibble with raw food. This is because kibble is generally harder for a dog to digest and raw meat is generally easier for a dog to digest. If you mix them or switch back and forth, some dogs will get upset stomachs.

On the other hand, every dog is different, and some people have success feeding one dry meal per day and one raw meal.

I think that is great. It saves money, and the dog is getting a variety of nutrients. You will have to see what works for your particular dog. I plan to feed Ace dry food every now and then, just to save some money and time.

If your dog gets an upset stomach from a kibble/raw combo, try leaving 12-24 hours between the dry meal and the raw meal so there is more time for him to digest the food. Your dog might do best with one meal per day, rotating between raw and dry. This will work for some dogs, and not others.

It’s nice to have a bag of high-quality kibble on hand for those days when you are just too tired or stressed to prepare a raw meal. We all eat fast food or frozen dinners every now and then. What’s the big deal if our dogs eat some processed food as well?

Likewise, if you want to keep some commercial, pre-prepared raw food on hand, that would be OK, too. I plan to. It’s just probably not going to save me any money 🙂

13. Don’t worry about buying organic.

Ideally, you may want to feed your dog organic meat and veggie sources. However, if buying organic food for your dog will break your budget, it’s OK to buy conventional meat and veggies.

Heck, you are shopping for your dog at a grocery store for the hoomans! If the food is safe enough for us, it will probably be OK for dogs, too 🙂

Labels can be misleading, and the whole “organic” labeling has certainly helped marketers. For example, beef labeled “organic” does not necessarily come from grass-fed cattle, as some people assume. It most often comes from cattle that ate organic corn.

Personally, I would rather buy grass-fed beef (for the humans and the dog), whether it is organic or not. I also prefer to buy meat and produce from local or regional sources, even if it is not labeled “organic.”

Basically, just buy the highest-quality food you can afford. Don’t fee guilty if you can’t afford organic.

Affordable raw dog food options

14. You will likely save overall on vet bills

The cost to feed a dog higher-quality food is generally going to be more expensive than processed kibble. However, you will hopefully save money overall on veterinary bills related to itchy skin, ear infections and allergies.

15. Feed your dog a little less.

A raw food diet for dogs is generally richer and more nutrient dense than dry dog food because it is high in protein and low in carbs. When you switch your dog to raw, you can generally feed him less! For more info, see this post on how much raw food to feed my dog.

It’s best to start out by giving him less food than you think he needs, because too much new food too quickly may cause an upset stomach. You can always increase the amount in a week or two if your dog seems to need more calories. Just wait until his system is handling the new food OK.

The rule of thumb is to eventually feed your dog about 2 percent of his ideal body weight, but that is just a general recommendation. Start with less and adjust as needed.

Do you feed your dog raw food? Please share your money-saving tips!

To learn more about raw feeding (and save yourself time, stress and money), check out my raw feeding guide and recipes.

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29 thoughts on “Affordable raw dog food”

  1. I always read junk mail that comes in the letterbox for weekly deals for cheap meat. Then, I stock up!

    A problem I have at the moment, though, is I’m trying to find more ethical types of meat. As most of my dogs diet has been broiler chicken in the past, this is a significant difference for us and we’re still trying to find the best way to manage it.

  2. It is such a shame that it can be more expensive to do what’s healthier for your dog. Those are all great tips and things that we do. And it is very true about not-over feeding on raw. My friend blends offal (hearts, kidneys etc) together for her dogs and because it is so rich, you really don’t need to feed much of it. As for switching between kibble and raw – we feed our puppy dry food in the morning and raw at night and he copes with this fine. We buy a very high quality (and darn expensive!) dry food though so that maybe why his system manages with this. If you an find someone close by that also feeds raw, buying in bulk and sharing the food can really help. You do need that freezer space though!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Good to hear your guy does well with one dry meal and one raw meal. I may end up doing that as well. We’ll see. What is the protein source of your dog’s kibble? Just curious. You’ve probably told me before. I just can’t remember.

      1. I haven’t mentioned it actually. It’s chicken, turkey and fish, salmon specifically I think. And they’re the primary ingredients, which is good 🙂

  3. I found a small farm about an hour from me that I buy pastured mutton from every year. I buy a whole carcass, and the butcher grinds the meat and organs. They include the bones, and I do give him one about once a week to gnaw on in the back yard. This works out to be about $2.65 per pound (not including gas expenses for picking up). I have a freezer that I purchased years ago when I got into raw feeding. I buy chicken parts on sale or buy on senior discount day or at Costco. I don’t buy organic chicken because I can’t even afford it for myself let alone my dog, but I wish I could.

    After feeding this way for years, I’ve come to understand that simple is best. In the beginning, I ground raw veggies and added them to the ground meat. It was really time consuming and expensive. I stopped including veggies when I read enough that convinced me that they aren’t necessary. I do give him a baked sweet potato or some steamed veggies once in a while as a treat though. I supplement with fish oil caps that I buy at Costco. He also gets a raw egg 2-3 and a couple dabs of whole milk yogurt each week and assorted berries in the summer.

    I must confess that I don’t keep track of how much I spend, but I would guess it’s 400-500 per year for one dog. My almost 13 yo Aussie has had minimal vet bills.

    Oh, and yes I agree with Pipa, you don’t need to feed a lot.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Very helpful, Susan. I’m just starting out and am not giving my dog fruit or veggies right now. I just don’t want to add too many new things to his system. I have some blended spinach, strawberries and lettuce that I put in the freezer for later, but I agree it seems like too much work and they probably don’t even need it. I will probably feed fruits and veggies every now and then as a treat. I’ll see what he likes and what he does well with.

      1. I feed my dog raw food from patties that I buy from Pet Club. Each meal (2 per day) is 1/3 patty, I stick of celery, 1/3 cup of peas and 8 mini carrots chopped (fat ones…otherwise I would double that), and 1/3 cup of kibble. I get the kibble from Costco that is the organic one in the green bag that does not have meal in it. He is a rescue. Border Collie and Cattle Dog mix. He is about 60 lbs and very healthy and lean. His coat is amazing and soft. I think the vegetables are great and a healthy and cost effective filler with the raw food considering the cost of the raw food. Thank you.

      2. I have been feeding a raw diet for about 20 years now. I disagree about the fact that dogs don’t need vege’s. They are not carnivores like cats. I have purchased a meat grinder, I used to use a blender but takes too much time, and once a month or so I go to the whole sale vegetable market and buy whatever is the best price. Usually carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, apples, etc. I then grind it all up. Now I put it into silicone muffin tins or the tins with silicone muffin liners, put it in the freezer, then once frozen, pop them out and put them into the freezer bags. I now have perfect portions. You can individualized the portions as necessary for the size of your dog. Just toss in their bowl the night before with whatever meat and he’s set. My first dog was a Chow/Blue healer cross and he lived to be 16 years old and I really think the raw diet was a huge part of it.

  4. This is such an interesting journey! Thank you for letting us come along. I’m afraid that the meat in the freezer would disappear once the teenagers found it. They already think they don’t get anything like enough meat (they’re probably right). I was thinking of going vegan again soon (it’s the best thing for perimenopause), so having meat in the house – too tempting. *sigh* It’s never easy, huh?

  5. Really great tips, thank you so much for sharing all you have learned. I’ve considered switching off and on but the cost, and the lack of freezer space, has been a definite obstacle for me. Right now it’s just not feasible but I like to stockpile information for the future and have a feeling I will be referencing this article a lot! When it comes to feeding our pets, it’s always so confusing. I want to do my best by them but it’s hard to know what that is sometimes!

  6. I just started my dog on a raw diet after feeding her high-quality kibbles (Salmon is the first ingredient). She has recovered from Heart Worms (via an herbal program I had her on for a year), but now has Cushings Disease! A friend of mine who healed her dog of cancer through diet and supplements advised using only grass-fed or organic meat due to the hormones & antibiotics found in regular store-bought meats (Cushings is an endocrine and immune system imbalance that’s acerbated by hormones). I’m calling butchers to price trimmings, but that’s expensive, too. She suggested I use organic black beans (buy dry, cook yourself) as a very cheap source of protein that I can use to “stretch the meat.” I’ll be trying that, too. She also advised dosing my dog with Essiac Tea, a powerful Cree Indian recipe, that she swears helped cure her dog of cancer. I think finding the right nutritional balance for our pets is a real trial and error process. We do what we can!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, we definitely do what we can! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope your dog thrives on the raw diet. Keep me posted as you learn more.

  7. I would say the least expensive pre-made commercial raw food would be Bravo Balance.Raw pet food is good,affordable, believable.It is good requirement of the pet’s owner.

  8. i adopted my mutt about 9 months ago- he’s 80 lbs, maybe a hound, pointer, greater swiss mix – who knows.
    started him on raw meat from day one. He eats a hunk of chicken about 9 out of 14 meals a week (not organic) and grass fed liver with eggs (my thinking here is that since its one meal a week and the liver is a body’s filter – i should spend an extra couple dollars and Im always happy to support the butcher at the farmers market if i can)
    the other 4 or 5 meals are raw small fishes (whiting, perch, sardines, salmon heads) the fish people will cut whatever I buy into a few big chunks and I DO freeze the salmon heads as this should kill any parasites that might be in them) and red meat of some kind – depending on whats available and on sale.

    he also gets a few chicken hearts with a raw egg (this is not considered an organ meat – but rather a muscle I just learned) once in a while. I sprinkle a little kelp powder in with the egg sometimes for micro nutrients and he gets a raw marrow bone once in a while to help clean his teeth

    i cant get on board with the pre mixed ground raw diet – aside from it being absurdly expensive – and SO MUCH plastic waste — i think one of the benefits of my bubs eating a chunk of raw beef on the bone is the work he has to do – he lies down in the kitchen- his jaw and neck muscles get used – he’s focused – using his canines way in the back to grind down and tear the meat.
    he uses his little front teeth to get at shreds of meat left on the bone – its kind of awesome and he seems to feel good about it too (sometimes i catch him eating and wagging his tail at the same time!)

    his coat is gorgeous and shiny and HE DOES NOT SMELL AT ALL – thats probably the most incredible thing – i can pet him for ages and theres none of that weird dog filmy smell on my hands – seriously amazing.

    i keep a bag of cherries and or blueberries in the freezer and those are his treats – i used to give him regular cookies and decided -whats the point he’s just as happy chomping on a frozen cherry. And i keep cans of sardines in water around incase for some reason i forgot to got to store or i dont feel well- whatever.

  9. I just got a 10 month old French Bulldog that has strictly been fed raw food. The problem is that is kinda expensive for us to buy this food that is delivered and averages 2.50~2.75 dollars per pound. I am thinking of buying chicken from Costco, but I am afraid of feeding him chicken bones. Do I clean the chicken and not feed him bones? do I feed him the chicken whole? (all pieces, including bones) Thanks!!!

  10. So I am researching raw diet for my dog and really wanting to make the switch. However the people at the local pet food store [not big box chain] keep telling me I need to purchase special raw food that is especially prepared for dogs. And it is crazy CRAZY expensive. I keep asking various people why I can’t just go to the store and buy raw meat instead and they always come back with the same answer: raw meat at the grocery store is meant to be cooked. Cooking kills salmonella and the like. Feeding a pet raw meat from the grocery store is a potential for disaster. Thoughts? This is honestly the biggest barrier to be starting down this path. Thank you.

      1. Dogs have industrial strength gastric juices so any bacteria is not an issue for them. Parasites are so pork you can first put in the freezer for at least a week and it will kill the parasites if any are present. Fish should be steamed due to it’s issues if feeding fillets. So you and your dog can have steamed fish for supper.

  11. Animals have amazing enzymes in their intestinal tracks that are equipped to defend against bacteria such as salmonella. The real threat of salmonella is to you! So please keep your prep area sanitary and your pets’ feeding area clean. I’m fortunate to be able to order “complete meals” (80/10/10 plus veggies!) Suzie’s Doggie Delights, a local family-owned raw food supplier that processes their meals on site in order to control the quality. Suzie’s cost for raw is very competitive with supermarket pricing (10lbs of complete meal ground whole prey chicken is $21.99 or $2.20/per lb.) When we run short of specific raw menu items and I’ll go to Costco or the local supermarket to supplement. Buy in bulk to save!!

  12. I just always heard that you shouldn’t give your dogs certain bones because they can get stuck in their throats or other worse things.
    what about that?

  13. Lynn, if the bones are cooked then they may splinter and get stuck in your pets’ throat or puncture their abdominal wall. Raw bones do not splinter and should be given to your pet 1-2 xs weekly for healthy teeth/gums, minerals and calcium and chewing pleasure. Dogs gnaw raw bones into very course pulp and small, digestible pieces which the acid in their stomach breaks down further. Just remember to give your dog a bone based on their size/weight (small gods = small bones, large dogs = large bones).

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you for chiming in, Jill.

      I feed my dog raw chicken and turkey bones because they are soft and easy for dogs to digest. You shouldn’t have to worry about them choking on these types of RAW bones and dogs digest these just fine, even if they swallow large chunks. This is why I recommend raw chicken and turkey bones for beginners.

      Others feed some larger raw bones for chewing purposes. There are more risks to these because some dogs might try to swallow large chunks of bone that may be harder to digest due to the density. These bones can also harm a dog’s teeth, depending on the dog. You have to know your dog’s chewing style. My dog is a hard chewer and for this reason I don’t give him larger bones (beef, pork, buffalo, etc.)

      1. Good call Lindsay! My dogs are gulpers but will chew on harder bones for weeks so we found that they may almost swallow smaller bones whole (not really an issue with the RAW chicken/turkey bones), we always give them larger and denser cow or beef bones for chewing. We don’t give our dogs bones or horns with a density harder than cow or beef bones (such as elf horn) because our vet warned us that may indeed crack or damage their teeth.

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