Affordable Dog Food: 6 Budget-Friendly Canine Nutritious Foods

Quality dog food doesn’t need to be expensive. Thankfully there are many dog food brands to choose from - the trick is knowing how to shop for quality yet affordable dog food. We’ll show you how!

Affordable canine nutrition

We're always discovering new budget-friendly brands at cheap prices so you don't have to!

We all want the best for our pups so they can live a full life by our sides. And of course, the key to a long and healthy life starts with nutrition.

Not everyone can afford the most expensive dog food brands, and that’s okay! With a little knowledge it’s easy to feed your pup quality dry or wet food at cheap prices that will meet their needs AND appeal to their taste buds!

Keep reading to learn how to choose a quality dog food, tips for shopping on a limited budget, and our reviews of the best cheap dog foods on the market.

6 Best Cheap Dog Food Brands Reviews of 2020

1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula

Blue Buffalo is a family owned company that makes healthy, holistic dog food. The main ingredients in their recipes are meat, healthy grains, fruit, and vegetables because they know these ingredients are needed for whole body health and vitality. This kibble also includes added vitamins, chelated minerals, and exclusive LifeSource Bits containing 7 antioxidant-rich ingredients.

This adult formula uses high quality chicken and chicken meal as its source of protein for lean muscle development along with brown rice, barley, oatmeal, peas, carrots, blueberries, and cranberries. Flaxseed is added as a source of Omega fatty acids for skin and coat health with calcium and phosphorus for healthy teeth and bones. Chondroitin and glucosamine help support the hips and joints.

You can rest assured that this food does not contain common allergy triggers like corn, wheat, soy, or artificial colors and preservatives. This formula comes highly recommended, is great for weight management and the kibbles are little enough for small breed pups to eat easily, unlike some other dry foods. 

  • Pros: quality protein as 1st ingredient, rich in vitamins and minerals, weight management, inexpensive quality brand, wholesome grains
  • Cons: not suitable for dogs with chicken/pea allergies

2. American Journey Active Life

American Journey’s Active Life is another wholesome wholegrain formula ideal for all breeds of dogs in all stages of life providing everything your growing pup or adult dog needs to thrive. The goal of this formula is to offer a well-rounded, balanced diet so your dog has the energy it needs to face life’s adventures. 

Real deboned salmon is the first ingredient in this recipe, which contains 25% high quality protein altogether. This food also contains menhaden fish meal, brown rice, peas, carrots, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and flaxseed. Additional ingredients provide nutrients and antioxidants for immune system support and overall wellness. Easy to digest grains provide a number of benefits like vitamins and fiber.

American Journey knows how to feed your dog (or puppy) because this recipe has no wheat, corn, soy, poultry by-product meals, or artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.  A healthy choice for majority of puppies made in the USA with a well-balanced omega-3 additives and premium quality animal protein sources. 

  • Pros: affordable, real meat as the first ingredient, made in the USA, with healthy grains, no poultry by-product meal, easy on dogs with stomach issues
  • Cons: pea protein high on the list, only available from Chewy, brand around only since 2017.

3. Diamond Naturals Cheapest Dog Food

A popular affordable dog food brand at less than $1 per pound. This grain-inclusive formula is an all-life-stages dog food offering a complete, balanced source of nutrition for your puppy, adult or aging dog! The food is made in the USA by a family owned and run company that’s been around since 1970.

This recipe uses cage-free chicken and chicken meal as its main sources of protein. Some other excellent ingredients are brown rice, cracked pearled barley, pumpkin, kale, blueberries, oranges, and quinoa. Chicken fat and flaxseed are added as healthy fat sources as well as vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. Diamond Naturals designed this recipe to be nutrient-rich and easy to digest. 

Only healthy ingredients make it into this recipe, which is why there is no corn, wheat, filler, or artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives in the formula. Diamond Naturals is rated as highly with dogs as it is with their owners providing good value for the price. 

  • Pros: grain-inclusive, made in the USA, real meat first, -includes a guaranteed 80,000,000 CFU/lb probiotics for digestive health
  • Cons: not suitable for dogs with chicken allergies, for dogs with sensitivities to wheat or gluten, just keep in mind this is not a grain-free formula.

4. Victor Select Dry Dog Food

Victor Select is a good choice if your dog has a sensitive stomach or a poultry allergy, since it uses beef and pork meal as its main protein sources. This recipe contains 77% premium quality meat protein and is made for pups with normal activity levels. 

Other ingredients in this pea-free and gluten-free formula are grain sorghum, whole grain brown rice, chicken fat, dehydrated alfalfa meal, and carrot powder. The recipe is also fortified with vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, protein, and amino acids.

There is no corn, gluten, wheat, soy, or peas in this recipe. It is designed to promote healthy immune systems and is highly digestible. Give this recipe a try if your dog has struggled on other foods and/or if you want your dog to have firmer, more consistent stools. 

  • Pros: high in protein, chicken-free formula, potato-free recipe
  • Cons: no whole meat protein, only meals, may not be suitable for very active dogs or those with higher calorie requirements 

5. Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural 

For small dogs, Rachael Ray Nutrish offers great value at an affordable price. This recipe is made using simple, natural ingredients and is prepared in the United States. Not only will your dog love this food, you’ll also be happy to know that a portion of the proceeds goes to the Rachael Ray Foundation to help animals in need. 

The first ingredient in this recipe is real farm-raised chicken. Brown rice and beet pulp are sources of fiber and probiotics, while other healthy ingredients include chicken meal, dried peas, whole ground corn, and dried carrots. Chicken fat provides important Omega fatty acids to keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy. 

Some things that this recipe doesn’t include are poultry by-product meal, fillers, wheat, wheat gluten, or artificial colors and preservatives. While this food is made for all breeds, the kibble is little enough for small dogs to enjoy. Most dogs seem to love this food and for us Rachel Ray fans we love that the price is reasonable for the quality making this one of the best cheap dog foods on the market.

  • Pros: made in the USA, U.S. farm-raised chicken is the #1 ingredient, low calorie dog-food (326 kcal/cup)
  • Cons: contains peas and corn 

6. Iams ProActive Large Breed Dog Food

Even though you can easily find food that is designed for all breeds and sizes, the needs of large and small breed dogs are somewhat different. USA-made Iams Proactive Health Large Breed is specially designed to support the individual needs of bigger dogs.

This vet-approved recipe starts with chicken as its primary source of protein for strong muscle development. Other ingredients are whole grain corn and sorghum, chicken by-product meal, and carrots. 

Flaxseed is also included to provide important Omega fatty acids, which help keep your dog’s skin and coat looking their best and maintain hip and joint health.

This formula is designed to give bone and joint support to large breed dogs, while prebiotics and wholesome fiber support healthy digestion and immune systems. This is quality kibble with a low price tag. You won't find a lot of unnecessary ingredients in this recipe.

  • Pros: veterinarian recommended, quality meat protein as 1st ingredient, large kibble size ideal for large/giant breeds, cheap price tag
  • Cons: kibble may be too large for aging big dogs 

Note this list only contains the best cheap dry dog foods. If you're looking for wet or canned dog food, take a look at our top 10 wet dog foods breakdown at different price tags.

How to Choose a Quality Dog Food

When searching for an affordable pet food, reaching for the cheapest bag you can find will likely lead to serious consequences for your dog’s health.

Many ‘bargain’ dog food brands are made with questionable protein sources, cheap fillers, and artificial ingredients that do more harm than good.

Asking yourself a few simple questions will help you gage whether a dry dog food you’re considering will meet your dog’s nutritional requirements. It will also help you avoid foods that could negatively impact your pup’s health.

The trick is to choose a quality dog food that is also affordable.

The five things you should ask yourself when looking for a quality dog food are:

When quality for cheap yet quality dog food there are a few things owners need to keep in mind.

1. Where is the food sourced from?

Dog food brands from developing countries may come with a nice price tag, but that’s about it.

Countries like China have little to no safety standards for pet food manufacturing. They are known to use questionable ingredients and practices that lead to product recalls or worse.

Choose brands that come from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Western Europe. These countries have strict safety standards to protect pets from sub-par foods.

2. Are there any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives?

Low-quality kibble is loaded with artificial ingredients (non-digestable products) to make the food last longer, look more appealing to owners, and enhance the taste of the food.

If it comes in pretty colors and has meat flavoring our dogs will love it right?

Wrong.

These ingredients are not necessary or healthy in your dog’s food.

In fact, artificial ingredients are linked to allergic reactions in dogs, which is why many quality brands avoid them at all cost.

If you see a sudden increase in stool volume, food is most likely the culprit. Quality dry dog foods don't use unecessary fillers which means less waste. So if you're seeing more poop especially after a recent switch in food, that's a sign that the food doesn't the agree with him. 

High quality diet = Less Waste + Consistent Stools + Healthier Stools.

3. Check for the AAFCO Statement

AAFCO, or the Association of American Feed Control Officials, is a private non-profit corporation that regulates the sale and distribution of pet food and drugs.

Most quality pet food labels feature a nutritional adequacy statement. The purpose of this statement is to inform owners that a food is nutritionally balanced for a particular life stage, including growth, reproduction, adult maintenance, or sometimes even all life stages.

4.  Is the recipe meat-based, with whole named protein first?

Some economy brands of dog food start with inexpensive fillers listed as first few ingredients. 

That's a big NO NO!

The amino acids found in meat protein are essential for your dog’s health. They contribute to things like muscle development, tissue repair, skin and coat health, and more.

Unfortunately, some companies mislead owners into thinking their recipes are animal protein-based when they contain more plant protein. Excessive plant proteins may reduce the cost of a dog food, but doesn’t provide your dog with adequate nutrition.

In a quality dog food, whole protein is at the top of the ingredients list!

The protein should be named and specific.
Look for meat, fish, egg, or some type of meat meal or fish meal as the first or second ingredient.

5. Are there other healthy ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains?

A quality meat source is one of the most important things to look for in a quality dog food, but not the only thing.

A well-rounded dog food will also contain ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains to support your dog’s complete health.

These additional ingredients will give your dog the energy and vitality they need to live a great life, such as antioxidants for immune support plus important vitamins and minerals that assist the different areas of the body.

Also Read:

Shopping for Dog Food on a Limited Budget

Now that we’ve covered what needs to be in your dog’s food, the key is to understand what it does not need to include or where it is okay to compromise.

In other words, what features of expensive dog food brands can be sacrificed without impacting your dog’s health?

Grain-free diets

These days, grain-free diets are all the rage, but they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Grain-free diets have been linked to a heart condition called DCM in dogs and the alternative ingredients they use make the food more expensive.

Unless your dog requires a grain-free diet for health reasons (which is rare), a diet featuring healthy, whole grains is totally acceptable.

Shopping for affordable grain-free and wholesome grains dog food kibble at cheap prices

Meat Meals/By-products

As a dog owner, you may have heard that meat meals and by-products are to be avoided.

While this is true in some cases, it is not necessarily always so.

When it comes to meat meals and by-products the more specific the better. If a food lists ‘meat meal’ as an ingredient it should be avoided because the ‘meat’ could come from any source.

However, specific meat meals like chicken meal are actually concentrated sources of protein that are more affordable

Dietary Supplements

You’ve probably noticed that pricey dog food brands have a long list of perks and added ingredients meant to support your dog’s complete health.

Ingredients added to provide your dog with things like Omega fatty acids, antioxidants, and probiotics are great, but they really drive up the price the food and aren’t necessary for all dogs.

Choose a food based only on what your dog needs and if you need to, supplement these yourself to save money

Read Next:

Last Word on Affordable Canine Diets

Finding an affordable dog food that is also healthy is not too difficult if you know what to look for.

One of the main things to avoid are recipes that don’t start with meat protein at the top of the ingredients list, or that contain questionable things like unnamed meats and cheap fillers.

The best overall cheap dog food, in our opinion, is Blue Buffalo Life Protection because it has a lot of the perks of higher end brands without being overly expensive. 

Of course, the food you choose will depend on factors like what flavors your dog prefers, their life stage, breed, and allergies or sensitivities. 

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