Let’s face it, if we’re not in a recession yet, it sure feels like it. Everything is getting more expensive, and we’re not necessarily making any more money. Our grocery bills, utilities, consumer goods, everything! Fresh pet food costs are through the roof, with no signs of decreasing anytime soon. While many pet parents want the best for their Best Friends, it may be a budget buster consistently providing that fresh food.
Personally, once I left that kibble behind, there’s no going back. Sure, fresh pet food costs are higher than if we just fed kibble. But, like you, I consider my pets family and feel that they deserve a small (or large) portion of the budget devoted to feeding them fresh, nutrient dense foods.
Fresh Pet Food Costs: A Barrier to Expansion
A newsletter I read from the Pet Food Industry highlighted a survey given to 1450 US pet owners. Of the survey respondents, 81% reported feeding kibble, 50% used wet or canned food. On the lower end of the spectrum, 17% of respondents used fresh foods, and 9% fed raw.
People were asked what they would feed if cost were not an issue, and responses changed to fresher pet food options. The ultra-processed kibble and canned foods dropped to 36% and 21%, with 34% saying they’d feed fresh food if money weren’t an object.
While it’s apparent people would prefer to feed their pets fresher diets, advertising and marketing for big pet food has been the driver for kibble diets being the norm.
I just read in The Forever Dog, that the average family spends $21/month on their dog’s food. Only $21???!!! What if feeding fresher foods were the norm? What if we weren’t conditioned to believe that $21/a month was reasonable for our Best Friends to thrive on? NO living thing can thrive on a $21/month food budget.
I fully understand that people are struggling to put food on their families’ tables right now, and I sympathize. Sometimes, $21 a month is all a family can afford for their Best Friends. It doesn’t make them love their pets any less.
But what about for those of us who can afford it? What about those of us who do have a little room in the budget for increasing fresh pet food costs? Shouldn’t we change our thinking and budget like our Best Friends are family members?
There are ways to include fresh pet foods AND keep your budget intact.
Budget for It
Just like anything else in your life; budget for it. Are there some things that can come out of that budget (ahem, maybe some of the things that we tend to rabidly consume, but don’t really need)? Those things that don’t really make us happy.
You know what makes us happy? Dogs. Our dogs make us happy. Not stuff. Personally, I’d rather have a couple of extra months or even years with my Best Friends if it meant giving up those cute new shoes or clothes I don’t need in the first place. If cutting out some of those frivolous items meant that I had more room in the budget for my dogs’ exorbitant food budget, then I’m in!
Maybe cut out some of those auto subscriptions that you don’t use or pay attention to anyhow. Does Jeff Bezos really benefit from your $12.99/month Amazon Prime subscription? Do you really need it? What about that Peloton sub you haven’t opened in 2 months? Maybe one of those TV streaming services can go? Examining those monthly subscriptions is a pretty simple way of adding $20-$50 back into the budget and a helpful way to offset those fresh pet food costs.
Look for Sales
You know when grocery stores cut meats down to discount prices? In the evenings, a few hours before the store closes. I scored some discount London Broil, pork steaks, and hamburger just because it was close to or on its sell-by date. Guess what? Wally and Olive-dog don’t care!
If you have the freezer space, consider buying in bulk when the sales are hot. Read those coupon fliers, buy in bulk if you are able. Additionally, organ meats tend to be a bit less expensive than prime cuts. Our dogs love organ meats and thrive on them. Just make sure you’re following a balanced recipe when including organ meats, as they pack a vitamin-filled-punch.
Buying on sale is also a pretty straightforward way to help with those fresh pet food costs.
Sign up for Deals
This method of offsetting fresh pet food costs can be a little offputting to some. Many companies encourage you to make a purchase through signing up for email promotions, but in return, you receive regular discounts sent to your inbox. I’ve personally scored some pretty decent deals from Dr. Harvey’s, Mercola, and even Chewy (by the way, I am not being paid to promote any of these companies).
Personally, I have a “junk” email address that I use to sign up for promotions. I take a little time to empty it out every week or two, and unsubscribe from promotions I’m no longer interested in. All in all, a pretty hands-off method of saving a couple of bucks here or there.
Of course, I’d rather support a local pet food store instead of buying online when I can. My local, family owned, pet food store has a tracking program for almost all of their foods and supplements. Once you buy 12 of anything (bags of food, supplements), you get a free item. It’s great! Just bought your 12th bag of food? The 13th is free! While it does take awhile to earn those freebies, it’s pretty rewarding and helps offset fresh pet food costs.
Additionally, many pet food stores don’t offer this service, but it’s worth an ask. This is especially true when pet food companies are involved. Maybe, you’ll help get something like this started at your local mom and pop pet food store!
Offset Those Fresh Pet Food Costs: Get Scrappy!
This is probably my favorite area. There are SO many things you can do to defray fresh pet food costs without breaking your budget or spending a lot of money.
- Grow something! Microgreens are a stupid-simple way to supplement vitamin e and other micronutrients, plus, they’re good for you too! You can grow microgreens on your counter for just a couple of bucks. Additionally, you can grow wheatgrass to share with your dog (and boost your own health) as well.
- Friend up a farmer or meat processor! If you live in an area with farmers, don’t be afraid to call them and ask if they can sell you some of the less-delectable bits, like organs, for your dogs. While there are FDA rules for many of the parts they can sell, farmers often have clearance to sell many of the organs and will often give you a fair deal. Organ meat directly from the source will always cost less than from a butcher shop, grocery store, or meat counter.
- Friend up a hunter! While fall isn’t my favorite season in MI, I do LOVE the bounty of hunting season. Many of my hunter friends love to bag that buck, but don’t want anything to go to waste. I’ve scored some beautiful venison hearts and livers for ZERO dollars. The hunters help us out, and we’re not wasting any part of the animal who gave up its life. Chances are, if you cook for your dog or raw food prep (I recommend cooking venison and wild game, but many feeders recommend freezing it for 2 weeks to kill parasites) you have a pretty strong constitution and can deal with blood, guts, and gore just fine.
- Don’t forget the ethnic markets: One of my favorite places to get RMBs (raw meaty bones) is my local Latin grocery. Chicken necks and chicken feet are pretty inexpensive, and that’s the only place in my town where I can find them without having to order from a butcher.
- It doesn’t have to be “All or Nothing”: Finally, you don’t have to feed just kibble or only fresh. You can switch out your dog’s treats with fresh foods and reap many of the benefits and enhanced nutrition. Meal toppers can make up to 25% of your dog’s diet. Add fresh, unseasoned leftovers to your dog’s dish. Watch her jump for joy at the new bounty! Of course, if you’re just starting out, make sure you start slowly and don’t go overboard. New, rich foods can cause stomach upset. We don’t want you turned off from fresh foods from the get-go!
Fresh Pet Food Costs Don’t Need to Stop You
Again, while we witness the cost of things increasing, rising fresh pet food costs don’t have to stop you. Providing fresh foods to your Best Friends should be a priority in your budget, and there are ways to adjust. Even just adding fresh vegetables to your dog’s food makes a world of difference in the nutrition department. Vegetables are one of the most nutritious and least expensive additions you can provide to your pooch.
Of all budget areas, this should be one to actively manage and not cut to the bone. Our Best Friends are family and deserve to be treated as such. What are you doing to help offset the cost of fresh pet foods? We’d love to hear in the comments below!