3 Budget-Friendly Dog Food Recipes for People Who Love to Spoil Their Pups

Lexi the Boston Terrier enjoying a bowl full of homemade dog food.
Lexi, a Boston Terrier, enjoys an afternoon snack at The Penny Hoarder offices in St Petersburg, Fla., on April 11, 2017. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Some people treat their pets like children — perhaps better.

One of my friends threw her pup a graduation party when he finished obedience school.

My boyfriend bought snow boots for his dog when the pair lived in Denver. The dog hated them, so he returned them.

My coworker says her mom cooks up bacon and eggs for breakfast; the dog gets the first plate. (Curry is for dinner.)

If you spoil your dog like this, you may have considered making your pup pal’s food (not human food).

Many people opt for homemade dog food because they want to control what their dog eats. Perhaps it has allergies, a sensitive tummy or maybe it’s just plain spoiled…

Either way, adding yet another homemade meal to your weekly grocery list can get expensive.

So don’t screw it up. Here are some affordable recipes to get you started — and what you need to know so you don’t accidentally poison Fido.

Disclaimer: I’m not a veterinarian — nor will I ever be (because I hardly passed intro to biology). Be sure to check with your pet’s physician about your fur child’s special needs before venturing out on your own.

homemade dog food
From left, Christie Post and Rascal, Kelsey Buxton and Lexi, and Kelly Smith and Wrigley do a broadcast about National Pet Day at TPH offices in St Petersburg, Fla., on April 11, 2017. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

The Do’s and Don’ts of Homemade Dog Food

First things first: Even though your dog might sit on the couch like a human, use your pillow like a human and snore like a human… that doesn’t mean it can eat like a human.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals outlined six essential nutrients doggos need to grow big and strong: water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

All of these nutrients can be found in the recipes below.

Then, of course, there are foods you want to avoid feeding your dog, even though there’s always the random story about how your coworker’s perfectly healthy dog eats chocolate — even unwraps the pieces with its claws… (Looking at you, Grace, the one whose dog eats curry for dinner.)

Here’s what to avoid, according to the American Kennel Club:

  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic
  • Ice cream
  • Almonds
  • Macadamia nuts

Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to get in the kitchen.

3 Recipes to Try If You Want to Make Your Doggo’s Food

These recipes aren’t going to make you the next Chef Dog-ardee, but they are good, healthy options to kick off your new DIY adventure.

Note: All the prices listed below come from my local Publix, collected in February 2017. Your stores’ prices will most likely vary.

1. If you want to go gourmet…

Honestly, this “Mutt Loaf” looks beautiful. I’d consider tasting it… and I don’t even like meatloaf. The recipe says it takes less than 30 minutes to make, so I’m down.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 pound of ground beef ($4.49)
  • 3 eggs, hard-boiled and shelled ($1.25)
  • 2 eggs, beaten (83 cents)
  • 5 ounces of carrots, finely sliced (25 cents)
  • 4 ounces of fresh or frozen peas (33 cents for frozen)
  • 4 ounces of shaved Parmesan cheese ($2)
  • 3 ounces of whole wheat breadcrumbs (63 cents)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree (7 cents)
  • ½ ounce parsley, chopped — but I don’t think your dog will notice if this is missing…

Your grand total for about 10 slices? $9.85, or less than $1 per slice.

For the recipe and an accompanying video, visit The Whoot.

2. If you’re obsessed with your crockpot…

The crockpot is actually one kitchen tool I know how to use — and kind of enjoy using. There’s a crockpot recipe for pup, too. It’s a simple beef-and-rice combo.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2.5 pounds of ground beef ($11.23)
  • 1.5 cups of brown rice ($1.71)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed (89 cents)
  • 1.5 cups of chopped butternut squash ($1.29 for a pound)
  • 1.5 cups of chopped carrots ($1.50)
  • ½ cup of frozen peas (33 cents)

The grand total is about $16.95, and you’ll get about 11 cups out of this, so that’s about $1.50 per cup. (See more on how much you need to feed your pooch below.)

Find the full recipe at Canine Journal.

3. If you’d prefer dry food…

My family has always fed our dogs dry food, which seems so boring, but my mom says she does it because it’s easier for her, and she can free feed.

If you’re stuck on dry food, here’s a recipe:

  • 2.5 cups of whole wheat flour ($2.18)
  • ½ cups of nonfat, dry powdered milk ($1.66)
  • ½ cup of cornmeal (14 cents)
  • 4.5 cups of water (free)
  • 3 medium eggs ($1.25)
  • 2 teaspoons of flaxseed oil (21 cents)
  • 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter (12 cents)
  • ½ cup of pureed cauliflower ($1.25 per frozen bag)
  • ½ cup of pureed zucchini ($1.25 per frozen bag)
  • ½ cup of pureed green beans ($1.25 per frozen bag)

In total, $14.91 will yield about 30 cups, which would feed a large dog for more than a week.

A hearty shoutout goes to Best Bully Sticks for this yummy recipe! You’ll find how to put this together there.

How Much You Need to Feed Your Pooch

This is something I hate determining because, of course, my dog is going to beg for food and act like he’s starving — even after he sneakily devours the cat food.

So how do you know your pooch’s pouch is full?

Canine Journal has a great graphic to help you determine your dog’s needs.

However, you’ll want to double-check with your vet to make sure your dog is getting everything it needs.

But Wait — Be Sure to Transition Your Dog Into Its New Diet

We humans have stomachs of steel and can hit up any buffet and pick and choose what we want.

Dogs, however, are a little different in that they need to transition into new foods. If you don’t properly introduce your pup to its new food, then it might experience diarrhea, vomiting… everything else you don’t want to happen on your new rug.

So be sure to gradually introduce your dog to the new food routine. Here’s what PetMD recommends:

  • Day 1: Mix 20% of the new food with 80% of the old.
  • Day 2: Mid 40% of the new food with 60% of the old.
  • Day 3: Mix 60% of the new food with 40% of the old.
  • Day 4: Mix 80% of the new food with 20% of the old.
  • Day 5: Give Pooch 100% of its new food.

If at any point any of the above symptoms start occurring, switch back to the old food — and call your vet.

For more information on switching dog food and special circumstances, PetMD has more information.

Your Turn: Are you up for the challenge, or do you already make your pup’s food? Share your favorite affordable recipes (or disasters) in the comments!

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’d like to give a shout out to her favorite dawgs, Bandit and Dimples.

This article would have been a disaster without the help of editorial intern, Haley Gonzalez. She’d like to give a virtual hug to her golden retriever, Oakley.