Best Cheap Dog Food

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dry dog food in metal bowls

Dog food can add up in costs — especially if you have large dogs or many pups. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many dog food formulas that are high-value but without the added price. 

Our favorite is Purina Pro Plan Adult dry dog food

It’s perfect for all breeds and sizes. And it includes high-quality ingredients like real beef for strong muscles, joints, and bones. 

And, if you need a special food, like a formula for a large breed dog or pup who needs to lose weight, we’ve got you covered there too. Our ten best cheap dog food options are perfect for any dog owner on a budget.

Our Best Cheap Dog Food

  1. Purina Pro Plan Adult Dry Dog Food (Best Budget Dry Food)
  2. Whole Earth Farms Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food (Best for Puppies)
  3. Nutro Natural Choice Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food (Best for Seniors)
  4. American Journey Grain-Free Canned Dog Food (Best Wet Food)
  5. Crave High Protein Chicken Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Grain-Free Food)
  6. Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food (Best for Small Breed)
  7. VICTOR Purpose Performance Formula Dry Dog Food (Best for Medium Breed)
  8. Chicken Soup for the Soul Large Breed Dry Dog Food  (Best for Large Breed)
  9. Diamond Naturals Light Formula Dry Dog Food (Best for Weight Loss)
  10. Natural Balance L.I.D. Lamb & Brown Rice Formula Dry Dog Food (Best for Allergies) 

10 Best Affordable Dog Food Reviewed 

All of the following formulas follow the AAFCO nutrient profile guidelines. Before switching your dog to a new food, please consult with your veterinarian. 


Best Dry Food

Purina Pro Plan Adult Dry Dog Food

Purina Pro Plan Adult Shredded Blend Chicken & Rice Formula
  • First 5 Ingredients: Beef, Rice, Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 3% Crude Fiber, 12% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 360 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-protein dry dog food with omega fatty acids for adult dogs 

Your dog deserves a well-balanced diet and tasty food. And even if you’re on a budget, you can meet both of those needs. Purina Pro Plan Brand dry dog food provides all the good stuff and some extra benefits. 

First, this formula has guaranteed live probiotics to support digestive and immune health. And, their vitamins are chelated, making it easy for your dog to absorb and use them. 

For ingredients, this recipe starts with real deboned beef. With a healthy dose of glucosamine and iron, this animal protein will protect your dog’s joints and give them a boost of energy.

While Purina Pro Plan is dry kibble, they add tender shredded beef during cooking to create more texture and add flavor to entice your dog to eat. 

Rice and whole-grain wheat offer prebiotic fiber and vitamins like selenium for metabolic health. And they don’t waste any part of the beef.

They also add beef fat and fish meal for vitamin A and omega-6 fatty acids. These vitamins aid in eye health and give your dog a healthy coat. 

This quality dog food is manufactured in Purina-owned US facilities. It’s not grain or gluten-free, so keep that in mind if you have a dog with sensitivities. 

Dog parents love that this food includes grains that keep their dogs’ regular. And, many enjoy the bag too, since it’s resealable. 


Best for Puppies

Whole Earth Farms Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food

Whole Earth Farms Puppy
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Canola Meal, Rice, Barley
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 27% Crude Protein, 15% Crude Fat, 3.5% Crude Fiber
  • Caloric Content: 383 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Wheat-free dry puppy food with DHA for brain development  

Yes, your puppy needs a formula made just for them. This is because puppies need more protein and calories than their adult counterparts.

But, you don’t have to waste money on puppy food. Instead, Whole Earth Farms offers the same high-quality ingredients while being wallet-friendly. 

Real deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal start this formula. They offer chondroitin and taurine to give your puppy a headstart on a healthy heart and strong muscles. 

Fish oil is rich in omega fatty acids. And it also provides DHA — an essential acid for brain health and development. But fish oil will also give your pup healthy skin and a shiny coat. 

Flaxseeds and rice give your pup a hearty and higher-calorie kibble. And they also offer easy-to-digest carbohydrates and prebiotics for gut health. Rice also includes vitamins like potassium and calcium — which are crucial for growing strong bones. 

This formula doesn’t include corn, wheat, soy, and poultry by-products. It’s also free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. 

Puppy parents admit that this kibble is relatively large, so it may not work for tiny or toy breeds. However, they love that it includes DHA and probiotics for a healthy pup inside and out. 


Best for Seniors

Nutro Natural Choice Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Nutro Natural Choice Senior Chicken & Brown Rice
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Barley, Split Peas, Brewers Rice
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 24% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 319 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Dry dog food with non-GMO ingredients and nourishing grains for senior dogs

Did you know that your senior dog should eat fewer calories but also have a higher fat diet? Their metabolism slows down, so they don’t need as much energy.

But, due to degenerating joints, muscles, and bones, they need all the fats and vitamins that they can get to keep them strong. 

A senior-friendly formula is essential once your dog reaches seven years old (or about five or six years if they’re a large breed). And, you don’t have to purchase top-value or premium food to offer them the best. Instead, try Nutro. 

Their Natural Choice Senior recipe starts with real chicken and chicken meal. These ingredients offer amino acids like l-carnitine and glucosamine, which help with joint health and metabolism support. 

Chicken fat and vitamin E oil offer omega-3 fatty acids and EPA. These are important for cognitive function, healthy eyesight, and flexible joints. 

Whole grain barley and split peas offer sustaining fiber for all-day energy for healthy grains. And they also provide vitamins like magnesium and zinc, which aid in a healthy immune system. 

This formula is made with non-GMO ingredients. It’s free of chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat, or soy. It’s recommended for senior dogs seven years or older — but if you have a large breed, you could switch them sooner. 

Parents of senior dogs appreciate the slightly smaller kibble size and softness of this food. Many say that their dogs’ have missing teeth or a hard time chewing, and this formula is the perfect solution. 


Best Wet Food

American Journey Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

American Journey Chicken Grain Free Canned
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Turkey, Chicken Liver, Potatoes
  • Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 9% Crude Protein, 6% Crude Fat, 1.5% Crude Fiber, 78% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 425 kcal/12.5oz can
  • Key Feature: Grain-free and high-quality protein wet dog food for all dog breeds

If your dog is picky, or if they need some extra moisture and protein, you may want to give wet food a try. But canned formulas tend to be more costly, and many would be too expensive for medium and large-breed dogs that need a lot of calories.

With American Journey Grain-Free canned dog food, you don’t have to sacrifice quality or cost. 

This recipe starts with real chicken, followed by savory chicken broth and real turkey.  These high-quality proteins help them maintain lean muscles — and fuel them with B vitamins and iron.

Flaxseeds and fish oil round out the main ingredients. And these additions provide healthy omega fatty acids for joint and skin health. Plus, flaxseeds offer fiber and phosphorus for strong bones. 

This loaf-style food is suitable for all breeds and sizes. However, larger dogs would require 3-4 cans a day, so it may be best used as a topper for them. 

Crafted in the US, this wet dog food is free of poultry by-product meal, grains, corn, wheat, and soy. And, it doesn’t include artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Each batch of food is packed in BPA non-intent cans for safety.

Pet parents admit that this food is “mushy.” But, they love the ingredients, and their dogs enjoy the food. 


Best Grain-Free Food

Crave High Protein Chicken Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Crave High Protein Chicken Adult Grain Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Split Peas, Lentils, Pork Meal
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 34% Crude Protein, 17% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 449 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-protein and grain-free dry dog food with chondroitin for strong muscles

Some dogs need grain-free food to avoid certain ingredients that can cause adverse reactions. And, many pet parents prefer to feed it to avoid filler ingredients and offer more protein to their pups.

If you’d like to feed your pooch a grain-free formula and on a budget, Crave High-Protein dry dog food is a perfect choice. 

It starts with farm-raised chicken and chicken meal. These ingredients offer a whopping 34% Crude Protein. Crave also includes pork meal. This contains B vitamins, iron, and niacin — which are all critical to energy production.  

Lentils and split peas are used instead of grains. These legumes are perfect for easy digestion. And split peas offer plenty of magnesium and zinc, essential for a healthy metabolism and strong muscles. 

Since this recipe doesn’t include gluten or grain products, it’s supplemented with vitamins like taurine, potassium, and phosphorus. These essential nutrients ensure that your pup gets everything they need to thrive with a grain-free diet

This formula doesn’t include any chicken by-product meal, soy, corn, and wheat. It’s also free of artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. It’s processed in US facilities. 

Pet owners say this food made a huge difference in their dogs’ digestion and energy levels. 


Best for Small Breeds

Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food

Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes
  • Caloric Content: 412 kcal/cup
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 38% Crude Protein, 17% Crude Fat, 3.5% Crude Fiber, 11% Moisture
  • Key Feature: High-protein and high-fat dry dog food for small breeds

Small dogs need smaller kibble. And, due to their constant spurts of energy and tiny bodies, they need lots of nutrition in a small amount of food (so they don’t gain a lot of weight).

That’s where Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free dry dog food comes in. It’s made with wholesome ingredients, is high in protein, fat, and vitamins, and is made just for small breeds. 

This grain-free recipe for small dogs features real deboned chicken as the first ingredient. It’s loaded with glucosamine and chondroitin to support hip and joint function. 

Chicken fat, sunflower oil, and salmon oil all include high levels of essential fatty acids to help promote healthy skin and a shiny coat. And salmon oil contains natural sources of DHA — a crucial amino acid that aids in brain function. 

Added prebiotics and probiotic fibers promote healthy digestion and make it easy for your dog to digest the chelated vitamins that are added as well. This high quality dog food is a crunchy texture with a small kibble to help reduce plaque and keep your dog’s teeth clean. 

Dog moms and dads say this food may be too small for dogs bordering on “medium” sizing since their dogs just swallow the kibble whole. However, they love the ingredients and high protein amount. 


Best for Medium Breeds

VICTOR Purpose Performance Formula Dry Dog Food

VICTOR Purpose Performance
  • First 5 Ingredients: Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Millet, Chicken Fat, Blood Meal
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 3.8% Crude Fiber, 9% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 399 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Gluten-free dry dog food with 81% animal proteins for medium breeds 

Medium breeds are often overlooked because many people believe that small and large breeds need more specialized nutrition.

A nd while those sizes do need additional help in some areas, so do medium breeds. They need more calories than a large breed (per pound) and need higher fat content than small breeds (due to stress in their joints). 

Victor Purpose Performance dry dog food meets both of those needs, plus offers food without gluten for the sensitive pups. 

It starts with 81% meat proteins from premium-quality beef, chicken, and pork meat meal. These nutrient-dense ingredients also include glucosamine and chondroitin for long-term joint health in adults and working dogs. 

Whole grain millet and sorghum offer prebiotic fiber to help your dog stay in peak condition. And, they supply vitamins like selenium for a boost to your dog’s metabolism. 

Victor’s unique “VPRO Blend” contains vitamins and minerals, plus probiotics, that promote better digestibility and immune system function. 

Medium breed owners love that this food helps their dogs’ joints, and many say they’re able to feed it to their larger dogs too. 


Best for Large Breeds

Chicken Soup for the Soul Large Breed Dry Dog Food

Chicken Soup for the Soul Large Breed Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 23% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 374 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Gluten-free dry dog food made with extra fatty acids for large breeds

Large breed dogs need lots of “good for them” fats to build strong muscles and bones that protect their joints and frames. And, because of their size, they also need to eat a lot.

Many large breeds can eat as much as 150-pound adult males (and sometimes more!). Buying all of that food could cost a fortune, but it doesn’t have to! 

Instead, choose a high-quality, lower-cost food like Chicken Soup for the Soul Large Breed dry dog food. 

This formula starts with real chicken and turkey and chicken and turkey meals. These provide plenty of animal proteins for muscle and bone health. They also offer glucosamine, taurine, and chondroitin — essential vitamins for joint support and a healthy heart. 

Cracked pearled barley and brown rice are full of soluble and insoluble fiber that aids in digestion and coats the tummy for satiation. Plus, brown rice has natural sources of calcium and potassium for frame support. 

This formula is manufactured in the US. It doesn’t include any by-product meals, wheat, corn, or soy. It’s also free of artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors. 

Not only do dog owners love this food, but they say their dogs’ don’t “creak” as much when moving around, and they have more energy! 


Best for Weight Loss

Diamond Naturals Light Formula Dry Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Light Formula Lamb
  • First 5 Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Ground White Rice
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 18% Crude Protein, 6% Crude Fat, 8% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 310 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Lower calorie dry dog food with novel proteins for dogs who need to lose weight 

Does your dog need to shed a few pounds? Whether they’re getting older and need to maintain a healthy size, or if your veterinarian says they’re getting a bit chunky, you can get a lighter dry dog food to help them lose weight.

But, many formulas are high value and cost more than the “regular” options. So what do you do? 

Turn to Diamond Naturals Light Formula dry dog food! This dry dog food contains 15% fewer calories than their original formula. At 310 calories per cup, this is ideal for overweight pups. 

It starts with real lamb. This novel protein provides glucosamine, chondroitin and l-carnitine to help your furry friend maintain healthy body weight. And, they also coat the joints to keep them flexible and sturdy. 

Chicken fat contains omega fatty acids for skin and coat health. And, it offers unsaturated fat that helps keep your dog’s heart, kidney, and liver healthy. 

Each serving of this recipe include species-specific K9 strain proprietary probiotics and prebiotics to help support healthy digestion and steady weight loss. 

This formula is made in the US by a family-owned company. It is made without corn, wheat, artificial flavors, or colors.

Pet owners say this miracle food helped their dog lose weight and keep it off. And, many were able to feed this food during adult and senior years, making it a great option if you’re not wanting to switch. 


Best for Allergies

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Lamb & Brown Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

Natural Balance LID Grain Free Lamb
  • First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Brown Rice, Lamb Meal, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 22% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 370 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Chicken-free and pea-free dog food with digestible grains for dogs with allergies

One of the biggest allergens found in dogs is chicken — usually because it’s one of the most common proteins in dog foods.

If you’ve found out that your dog has food allergies to chicken, or even items like wheat and corn, you’ll need a formula that avoids these. If you’re trying to find a type of food like this on a budget, try Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets. 

This dry dog food is the perfect choice for dogs who have certain allergies. While their lamb and brown rice formula does have grains, it’s free of wheat, corn, soy, chicken, and peas. 

It features real deboned lamb as the first ingredient. This offers a novel source of protein for dogs that can’t have popular animal proteins. And it still provides omega fatty acids, taurine, and chondroitin — all of which keep your dog healthy from the inside out. 

Grains like brown rice and rice bran are easier to digest than simple carbs like wheat or corn. These also offer fiber for better digestion, and selenium and magnesium to support your dog’s immune system. 

This formula is manufactured in the US. It’s free of artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors. 

Pet parents exclaim that this is the best option for their dogs’ gastrointestinal issues, allergens, and skin problems like itchiness. 


dog food packaging

What to Look For in Cheap Dog Food 

What are you supposed to look for in cheap food? Here are the ingredients you want. 

What Should You Be Buying?

There are plenty of nutritional components that you want to feed your dog, whether on a budget or not. Here’s what to watch out for. 

High-Quality Proteins

Just like you need protein to sustain a workout or your daily activity, so does your dog. Plus, natural animal proteins give canines vitamins and minerals too.

These help your pup maintain their muscle mass, keep their bones strong, and keep their heart healthy. 

However, high-quality proteins are essential. Don’t choose a food that’s heavy on by-products or soy proteins.

Instead, find formulas with real animal meat (like beef or chicken) or quality meat meals. And, these should be the first ingredients on the label. 

Fatty Acids 

Your dog needs fats — even more than you. This is because dogs get their energy fuel from healthy fats. And they provide acids like omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin. These offer joint protection and keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy. 

But, ingredients like rendered fats are low-quality additions that shouldn’t play a part in your dog’s diet. Instead, look for healthy fats like coconut oil, fish or salmon oil, sunflower oil, and flaxseeds. Meat fats are beneficial too, like chicken or beef.  

Digestible Carbs 

Did you know that dogs should eat carbohydrates because they offer crucial vitamins and minerals like zinc and magnesium?

And, they offer healthy prebiotics and plenty of fiber. All of these natural additives keep your pup regular and offer immune support. 

But not all carbs are created equally. Sources like wheat gluten and sorghum shouldn’t be the primary sources of your dog’s carbs. Instead, oats, brown rice, and even potatoes are better choices. 

Vitamins, Minerals, and Other Supplements 

No matter what food you choose, their formula should offer the vitamins and minerals that your dog needs (per AAFCO recommendations).

But of course, you should look out for vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus, and taurine. These are all essential in a healthy and happy dog. 

Ingredients to Avoid When Buying Cheap Food

Premium foods usually contain only the finest ingredients. But these can be out of budget for many dog parents. However, you don’t have to sacrifice quality when buying cheap food! 

First, be sure to avoid by-products and rendered fats when possible. These ingredients may offer some protein and fat but aren’t the best choice for proper nutrition. 

Next, avoid artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors at all costs. They aren’t needed, and many dog foods can get rid of them altogether. 

Of course, also avoid grains, gluten, soy, and other ingredients if your dog is allergic to them. While many canines can have these ingredients, not all can!

If you suspect that your pup is allergic or intolerant to any of these ingredients, find a recipe without them. 

Homemade Dog Food vs. Commercial Products

You may be thinking, “I can just make my dog’s food! It’ll be cheaper!” but you’d be wrong. If you add in vitamins, meats, grains, and more to get perfectly balanced food, you could end up wasting money to make homemade food.

And, you’d also be spending time making it, which can be a hassle if you’re busy. 

Manufacturers can make food affordable because they buy in bulk, which saves them money. Then, they pass those savings onto the consumer. So you’re better off finding a formula that fits your wallet. 

Our Verdict

Dog food doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. There are many wonderful formulas and recipes that can nourish your dog, and keep money in your wallet. 

Our best choice for (almost) all dogs is Purina Pro Plan Adult dry dog food

It’s one of the best budget dog food options that anyone can buy. And, it offers the same high-value ingredients as dog foods that are higher in value, but without the added expense. Plus, many pet parents love how it keeps their dogs feeling good! 

But all of the choices on this list are wallet-friendly. And you can find the best option for you and your pup based on your needs. 

FAQ

Want to know more about cheap dog food? Here are some questions that are asked frequently, and our answers! 

What is the best affordable grain-free dog food?

Our favorite affordable grain-free dog food is Crave High Protein Adult Grain-Free dry dog food

However, other grain-free options are on this list, including American Journey canned food. And, you can always look for yourself and see what you can find when it comes to budget-friendly grain-free formulas. 

Is it cheaper to buy dog food or make it?

This depends. In most cases, it would be cheaper to buy kibble. However, you wouldn’t control all of the ingredients, and you may have to switch brands when prices go up. 

If you make your own dog food, you can buy what’s on sale and purchase ingredients in bulk. This will help you save more money when preparing the food yourself.

However, it’s not as convenient, and you have to see if it’s worth your time. Plus, you’d need to get your food vet-approved to ensure your dog gets the proper nutrition. 

Why are some dog foods cheaper than others?

There are many reasons why dog food may be cheaper than others. For one, it may use more cost-effective proteins, like meat meals, instead of deboned meats.

And, it may add in grains or vegetables to use less meat product. And sometimes, it’s just because you aren’t paying for a specific brand name. 

However, saving money doesn’t always mean similar quality food. Be sure that the budget dog food option you buy doesn’t include fillers or additives that can potentially harm your pup. 

Is dry dog food cheaper than wet dog food?

Yes. This is because it’s usually cheaper and easier to process. For example, wet food has to go through a more extended and slower cooking time to eliminate potentially harmful bacteria. Because dry food is cooked at a higher temperature, it can bypass that process.  

Is all cheap dog food bad for dogs?

No. While there are some cheap dog food products that you should avoid, there are many great options out there too. “Cheap” food isn’t bad. Sometimes it just means offering cheaper cuts of meats or adding in hearty grains.

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AUTHOR
Kim Studdard is a freelance writer for many websites in the pet universe. When she isn't spending time with her family and pets, or saying "Look a dog" everytime she sees one, you'll find her reading a book or traveling the U.S.

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