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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dog Food and Treats:
5 Ways to Save Money Making Your Own

Guest post by Paris Permenter and John Bigley
© P.Permenter and J.Bigley
Paris and John
Enjoy Halloween with Tiki and Irie 
After the tragic 2007 dog food recalls, a growing number of people began to prepare homemade dog food. Whether you go 100 percent homemade, supplement your dog’s food with homemade food, or just prepare your own dog treats, you can shop carefully to save money. It isn’t difficult but it does require some preparation and savvy shopping to meet your dog’s special needs. Talk with your veterinarian first then make any changes gradually to avoid disrupting your dog’s digestive system.

Invest in a good dog food cookbook.

Making your dog’s food isn’t just a matter of whipping up a little extra food at every meal; you want to serve the food groups in the correct proportions for your dog. Before you begin shopping for ingredients, you’ll also want to know which foods your dog should never eat.

Investing in a quality cookbook (or checking one out at your library) can provide recipes you rotate to keep your dog healthy and happy. A selection of recipes will also allow you to utilize fruits and vegetables that are in season—another way to stretch that food budget. Looking for a good dog food cookbook? We like The Whole Pet Diet: Eight Weeks to Great Health for Dogs and Cats, by Andi Brown.

Invest in a slow cooker.

We love our slow cooker and purchased one just to prepare dog food. We bought ours on sale at the discount store, and it has paid for itself time and time again. Two nights a week, we toss in meat and vegetables and brown rice or other starch, simmering overnight. In the morning, we have dog food for the next three days to supplement the high-quality kibble we feed our two large dogs (we feed half kibble, half homemade.) If you have smaller dogs or just one dog, you’ll need to cook less often.

Watch for “last chance” fruits and meats.

If you make your own dog food and treats, keep an eye out for the overripe fruits and vegetables on sale at your grocery store. These foods which have reached their “best by” date can be great low-cost ingredients. You’ll want to use or freeze these purchases as soon as you get home.

Shop farmers’ markets.

Buying directly from the farmer helps to cut out the costs that go into processing, packaging, distributing and ultimately displaying the product at a grocery store. Locally grown produce is also an eco-friendly choice that’s delicious in addition to being inexpensive!

Also, you can save money by shopping a farmers’ market at the end of the day when farmers want to move the last of their goods. Buy in bulk and you can increase that savings. Don’t be afraid to ask farmers about bruised or damaged fruits and veggies they can’t sell—often they’re free for the asking (especially if you’re making another purchase!)

Buy organ meats.

The less desirable organ meats are inexpensive and make a good component to your dog’s diet. Serving four or five percent organ meat in your dog’s diet can benefit your pooch and your pocketbook. Our dogs love beef and chicken livers, kidneys, and beef heart, all easy on the budget.

If you don’t want to invest the time in cooking your dog’s food, making dog treats is also an excellent way to trim your budget and reward your dog with healthy, homemade goodness. These Chicken and Cheese Dog Biscuits are some of our dogs’ favorites and take only moments to prepare.
© P. Permenter and J. Bigley
Chicken and Cheese Dog Biscuit Recipe

· 1-1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
· 3/4 cup chicken broth, divided
· 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice
· 1 cup whole wheat flour
· 1 cup all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease two cookie sheets.
  2. Toss the chicken and just 1/2 cup of chicken broth in a blender or food processor and mix until it’s the consistency of baby food. Using a silicone baking scraper, scrape the chicken mixture into a large bowl. 
  3. Add the flours and cheese and slowly add a teaspoon of broth at a time until you have dough the right consistency to knead. (The amount of broth you’ll need to add will vary by the moistness of the chicken.) The dough should be heavy but not too dry (that means you need more broth) or too sticky (that means you need more flour).
  4. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll to about 1/4-inch thickness. 
  5. Use cookie cutters and cut biscuits in desired shape, place on cookie sheet, and bake for 30 minutes. Allow treats to cool completely before refrigerating the treats or serving.
© P. Permenter and J. Bigley

Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the founders of, featuring tips for dog lovers by dog lovers. The husband-wife team are the authors of 28 published books including their latest, Barkonomics: Tips for Frugal Fidos.

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Kristine said...

Thanks for this very informative post! I have long been thinking of switching to raw or home-made but am unsure at my ability to actually do it properly. I worry that I can't give her the right kind of nutrition on my own. This article should prove very useful.

Patti said...

Ooohhh...I love the organ meat idea!!! I give my dogs a holistic dry and add chicken that I grind in the food processor but this is great info! I got a doggie treat book for Christmas, so will be making my own treats from now on :) Thanks for this great post!!!

mama butterfly said...

i have a crock pot and some organ meats in the freezer,can you share a recipe here?

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

Hi Mama Butterfly and welcome. Here's a beef heart recipe I found on Paris Permenter's site: I have yet to try organ meats myself, but I don't see any reason why a 1/4 cup of broth and the meat with carrots wouldn't be a big hit with my pack. I'll have to look into this some more. Thanks for the inquiry.

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

More tips from Paris for Mama Butterfly:

The other main organ meat I make the dogs is liver...but I either cook it on a George Foreman grill or in the oven (it gets so smelly if you drag it out for hours in a slow cooker!) Here are some liver recipes:

With organ meat, you don't want the organs to make up over about 5-10% of the total diet (and less with that for liver since it's so rich so I use it just as treats).

Along with beef liver, I often cook chicken liver for the dogs, either in the oven or in a skillet with a little olive oil.

Rick said...

Great information. It is important to make sure you give the appropriate amounts of meats, veggies, fruits and starches. A good dog food cook book should tell you exactly how much of each to use, but do some research first.

Alexis AKA MOM said...

Love the recipe and the post, we love to make treats for our puppy it is cheap and so easy to do. I'm all about saving the pocket book :). I'm your newest follower.

Nature by Dawn said...

Is it just me or do these posts about dog treats make everyone hungry? Except for lack of seasonings, these recipes sound pretty good!

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

FYI, these dog biscuits will make your house smell delicious!

katie mitchell said...

The slow cooker is a must for cooking for the pets. Whenever 1 of my cats or dogs arent feeling good I make them boneless skinless chicken breast and rice in the slowcooker and they love it, last year on black friday I got a smaller slow cooker to use just for the pets for only $2.97 I also just got my dehyrdator and am going to make some home made chicken jerky treats for teh dogs and some of the chicken wrapped around sweet ptao, banana and apple treats.

dog boarding Harrison TN said...

These are great tips in giving our dogs healthy treats while saving on our budget. A lot of dow owners will surely find these helpful and effective. Thanks for sharing an informative article.

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