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Best Cheap Dog Food – Buying Guide for 2021

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Every dog parent wants the best for his furry buddy, and unsurprisingly food is #1 among all the conditions affecting the life of every living thing. What if you’re tight on budget and forced to spend less on dog food – does it mean your canine is condemned to poor-quality nutrition? In this article, we will give you the guideline on how to choose the best affordable food for your pet. Along with some basic information on canine nutrition, we offer you 7 best cheap dog food picks available on the market in 2021.

Is There Good Cheap Dog Food At All?

First of all, judging about quality by the price or label can be wrong. There are cheap dog foods that provide all the necessary ingredients for canine well-being. There are expensive dog foods that are full of useless fillers, artificial flavors and cheap by-products low in protein. Top dog food brands are everywhere on the store shelves and ads, they have better promotion and usually cost more than other similar products. Many dog owners think that price always defines quality. It’s only half-true, though. Surely, there are fair prices on meats, vegetables, fruit and vitamin supplements, which are basic ingredients for healthy dog food, but there is a price on marketing promotion as well, and it adds a certain cost to the product’s value.

Dog food for the priceMoreover, promotional expenses may be a significant part of the price. This way even a quite ordinary recipe in a stylish package with a recognizable brand logo on it can be sold by the higher price as premium nutrition. Meanwhile, the smaller brands which sell quality affordable canine food, but have modest ads budgets, are far behind the market leaders in popularity. Thus, to avoid being tricked by the label, check the information it claims. Does it state the food is organic or holistic? Check the list of ingredients to see if it’s true before putting it in your cart.

Pet owners tend to consider the cheap dog food just a “filler” with no nutrients, but the situation has been changed. According to the general tendency to a healthy diet, people get more educated on how proper food should be chosen. Many cheap dog food brands nowadays try to compete with the top sellers by quality and price on their products. They improve their recipes with fiber, prebiotics, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and Omega fatty acids to sustain the dog’s heart, digestion, immune system, and other vital organs.

The Best Inexpensive Dog Food We’ve Found On The Market

Product Name
Editor's Rating
Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dog Food
Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dog Food
  • Grain-free
  • Rich with Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Ocean fish and salmon proteins
  • The highest quality standards
Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 Natural Limited Ingredient Recipe Dry Dog Food
Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 Natural Limited Ingredient Recipe Dry Dog Food
  • Contains only 6 ingredients
  • Free from corn, wheat, soy and fillers
  • Safe for dogs with chicken allergy
Natural Balance Ultra Premium Wet Dog Food
Natural Balance Ultra Premium Wet Dog Food
  • High-quality protein and animal fats
  • Contains vegetables
  • Special ingredients for reducing odor in dog’s stool
Diamond Naturals Dry Food
Diamond Naturals Dry Food
  • No wheat, corn or soy
  • Contains flaxseed for healthy coat
  • Assorted one-meat recipes (chicken, beef, lamb) for picky eaters
American Journey Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
American Journey Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
  • Grain-free
  • Real meat as #1 ingredient
  • No artificial colors or flavors
  • Two recipes in the case
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult Dry Dog Food
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult Dry Dog Food
  • Omega-6 fatty acid and zinc for shiny coat
  • Farm-raised chicken as the main source of quality protein
  • No soy, corn or wheat
Purina Beneful IncrediBites for Small Dogs Dry Dog Food
Purina Beneful IncrediBites for Small Dogs Dry Dog Food
  • Mini kibbles
  • 27g of protein per cup
  • Perfect for small dog breeds’ high metabolism
  • 23 main vitamins and minerals
There is plenty of dog food for the price which complies with the highest pet care and veterinarian standards and doesn’t cost a fortune. Here we remind you of the main principles of choosing the quality food for your canine:

  • The first ingredients on the list are the major mass in the food contents. For dogs, they have to be meat and meat meals.
  • Lean meat is way better than meat by-products, which are low-protein substitutes.
  • The best share of proteins for a dog’s energy and well-being is about 30% in dry food. Keep in mind that puppies usually need more proteins for growth, and senior dogs need them less. The breed matters as well.
  • Fat contents should be 15% (dry food) for keeping dog coat healthy and its fur shiny. In some cases, food with more fats is even better, but not when your dog is overweight.
  • Corn, wheat, and soy are less desirable as the source of carbohydrates because they may cause issues with digestion. If your canine has stomach sensibility, choose grain-free nutrition. The alternatives are potatoes, barley, millet, rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and vegetables. Usually, there’s no need to stay away from grain for dogs without intolerance to it.
  • Grain-free dog food is not intended for shedding weight, it may contain even more carbohydrates, and therefore it’s not the ready-made slimming diet.
  • Make sure there is an AAFCO statement on the package, which means the dog food meets its standards.
  • If your canine has health issues, ask your veterinarian about the proper recommendations on choosing dog food for her.

Every canine is different, so there’s no dog food suitable for any dog. Which nutrition is the best for your pup, would depend on their breed, age, weight, health, and individual taste, of course, it’s like choosing dog house. Thus, if you tried just a few of the affordable food brands with no positive result, you shouldn’t give up. Choose something different and offer it to your taste-wise canine friend — it will work in the end.

Individual Reviews Of Affordable Dog Food

Taste of the Wild Premium High ProteinAll Taste of the Wild recipes are based on the diet of the wild canines and wolves, as it comes from its name. This particular dog food has parts of real smoked salmon, therefore the unique natural taste comparing to other dry food brands. Other Taste of the Wild recipes contain a variety of rich-flavored meats such as lamb, chicken, beef and more rare ones like roasted bison, roasted venison, and buffalo meat. One can find numerous good customers’ reviews about its good influence on their dogs’ health, weight and appetite (in case of picky pups).

We highly recommend this kibble food because of its balanced formula which benefits the dog’s well-being and treats some frequent unhealthy conditions. Fish proteins along with grain-free recipe can reduce skin issues, thus are recommended by veterinarians in some cases. Also, fish meat proteins are smoother than others, so when it comes to digestive problems, such as producing gas, fish-based food may improve the pet’s condition. What’s more, the brand has developed its own K9 Strain Probiotics to help canine digestion. Omega-3 fatty acids make dog coat shiny and keep the heart healthy.

Pacific Stream dog food is based on the grain-free formula which offers carbohydrates of vegetables and fruits instead of corn and wheat: this recipe contains 4% of healthy fiber of peas and sweet potatoes. Notice that fat contents of this food are higher than is generally recommended — 18% instead of 15%. It is not critical, moreover, usually affects the pet’s fur and coat in a positive way, but may be undesirable for senior dogs or ones with health issues.

Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 Natural Limited Ingredient Recipe Dry Dog FoodFirst of all, every bag of Just 6 Natural dog food is made in the U. S. using the best, mostly domestic ingredients and meat from trusted suppliers. As it comes from its name, this dog food contains only six simple natural ingredients plus vitamins and minerals added for nutrition balance. Limited ingredients products are considered more natural and healthy because it’s harder to hide useless fillers in their contents description. This lamb meat and brown rice recipe is free from corn, wheat, soy, so goes well for pets with sensibilities, such as boxers; it also is safe for dogs prone to chicken protein allergy. Following Just 6 philosophy, this dog food’s formula doesn’t contain artificial flavors and other suspicious chemicals.

We have included Rachael Ray Nutrish kibbles in our top quality brands of dog food for the price, although there is canned nutrition by this firm as well. Its recipes are among the most preferable by canines due to their rich natural tastes. No wonder, this brand has plenty of dedicated fans.

Natural Balance Ultra Premium Wet Dog Food largeSome canines prefer wet food, so we’ve found good quality ones for the money. This beef recipe by Natural Balance is called Ultra Premium along with having quite an affordable price tag. And it’s worth its name! The delicate canned pate contains 8% of protein and 5% of fat, the optimal ratio for this kind of canine nutrition. Additionally, there are dried kelp on the ingredients list, it’s not the common yet super beneficial element in regular dog food.

This particular wet dog food’s formula is suitable for dogs who have to avoid chicken, there’s a liver recipe as well. The good sign is that this food is highly recommended by the customers for picky eaters and canines with sensibilities. Since NB Ultra Premium Wet Dog Food is suitable for all life stages and breeds, it’s perfect for pet parents who own several different dogs and get tired by feeding each of them with different foods. The product is available in various sizes.

There are cons though. First, the can is opened with the can opener only, which is considered not handy by some buyers. Second, the pate’s smell is smoky, therefore some dogs like it a lot while the others may refrain from eating, but it’s still a great cheap food for dogs.

Diamond Naturals Dry FoodThis beef-based food is a great source of protein for dogs who don’t eat chicken. Though, lamb and chicken recipes are available as well. All Diamond Naturals recipes have only one real meat ingredient in their contents — that mentioned on the label. This may be good for canines with allergies, but generally, being mostly carnivores, dogs need to have various meats in their diet.

So, proteins are 28% of this food, fats are 17% and the rest are carbohydrates for energy and proper nutrition. No meat by-products included, and it’s great for low cost dry dog food. As the formula is grain-free, the non-protein contents come from brown rice, vegetables, and fruits. Besides traditional peas and potatoes, this dry food contains blueberries, kale, and even coconut — all these ingredients make it nutrient-rich and health-supporting. Try it if you decide to switch your furry friend to the more affordable diet without quality loss.

American Journey Grain-Free Canned Dog Food stewAmerican Journey offers two stew dishes in a pack for your furry friend. If your canine prefers wet food, this is a great combination of quality meats and vegetables. Both beef and chicken recipes packed together, have first four meat ingredients. There are other recipes (turkey) and forms (loaf) available by this brand. Chunks in gravy remind a bit of human food, so it could help to switch a dog from the cooked dishes to canine food which is more suitable for them. We’d like to mention its healthy grain-free formula packed with vitamins and minerals to boost your dog’s vital energy. Particularly, fish oil provides Omega fatty acids for the immune system and shiny coat.

American Journey Grain-Free Canned Dog Food packThis dog food is produced in the U. S. from the best domestic and worldwide ingredients and sold by limited retailers. Therefore, every can of stew meets all the safety standards both in ingredients and packaging. Customers report that American Journey canned food contains more solid pieces and less gravy in it compared to other wet dog food — it means even more nutrients for the price.

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Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult Dry Dog FoodFirst of all, Nutro Wholesome Essentials has appeared on the list of the best cheap dog food because it is made of the real poultry parts and doesn’t contain any meat by-products. The reach chicken taste combines with brown rice and sweet potato, with no corn added. The formula also contains dried apples and blueberries along with chelated minerals and vitamins.

Although we face much concern regarding chicken meat, only 10% of dog allergies are food sensibilities. Farm-raised chicken, as it is in this dog food, is an excellent source of protein, thus you shouldn’t exclude poultry from your canine’s diet unless they are intolerant of it. There are also salmon, lamb and venison recipes — the real temptation even for a picky eater.

Nutro, being on the market since the ‘90s, claims that all its poultry comes from farms inside the USA, and guarantees that all Wholesome Essentials nutrition is GMO-free. It also contains no artificial preservatives. Available in two sizes for different breeds: regular kibbles and small bite ones for small and tiny dogs. We’d like to add that proteins and fat contents in this dry food may be low, but still suitable for older dogs though. As it is stated on the label, this canine food is aimed for adult pets, not puppies.

Purina Beneful IncrediBites for Small Dogs Dry Dog FoodNeed top rated puppy food? The last but not the least in our top picks of cheap yet quality dog food is Purina Beneful IncrediBites for small canine breeds. We have to add that Purina has experience in producing pet nutrition since 1894. Nowadays, dog food by this brand is one of the most inexpensive on the market. Check the other Purina Beneful dog nutrition to find the recipe suitable for your canine. There are series of recipes, where you can find best cheapest puppy food, large dog breeds, for shedding weight, as well as yummy treats.

This particular beef recipe is high-rated by dog owners (98% of customers recommended it), who claim that it comes well even for picky eaters. The #1 ingredient is the real meat, and it is the most important thing when we talk about dog food. Beneful IncrediBites formula for small dogs fully satisfies their nutritional needs: it contains 27g of protein per cup, calcium to keep small dogs’ bones healthy and more calories to sustain the higher metabolism. Carrots and peas are main non-meat ingredients, but there are whole grain corn and wheat, soybean meal, and corn gluten meal too, which are not suitable for dogs with allergies and diabetics.

Additionally, dog parents should consider the size of the bag which can be too large for a really small “teacup” dog; there are smaller bags available from online retailers.

General Tips On How To Get The Best Dog Food For The Price

#1 Looking for a way to save money on buying dog food, pet parents should educate themselves a little to be able to find out the best nutrition instead of paying for promoted brands. Always read the list of ingredients. Quality dog food has to be free from cancer-causing chemical preservatives, high-risk coloring agents and excess generic animal fat. Pay attention to what kind of meat ingredients are there and try to avoid anonymous ones. The proper dog food has above-average meat content with favorable fat-to-protein ratio and fewer carbohydrates. The latter ones are present in sweet potatoes, rice and peas as well, not only in grains, so read the label carefully. Stay away from fillers like corn or too much non-meat ingredient. Dogs and humans have different metabolism, so what’s good for pet parents may be not suitable for their furry friends. Thus, more than 4% of fiber in the dog food can cause diarrhea or other digestion issues.

#2 It’s widely known that products packed in large bags or boxes cost less than those packed in smaller ones. Thus, trying to save funds, buy dog food in bulk. Use online retailers to order dog food to your door, and you will save your time and gas too.

#3 Don’t miss the special offers on dog food or delivery services. Season sales, discounts, coupons etc. will serve you well. Searching for low-priced propositions you may find the best choice for your buddy.

#4 If you want to switch your dog to cheaper yet nutritious food, omit processed ingredients in favor of the real ones. The same is about choosing lean meat ingredients versus by-products. The latter ones have quite less protein content along with being cheaper.

dry dog food#5 Dry dog food is relatively more affordable than wet dog food. If your budget is limited, try to find dry food which your canine will eat with pleasure. As usual, dogs like chicken more than other flavors. The good news is that chicken is quite affordable compared to other meats. Although, chicken meat may not be suitable for dogs which are prone to allergies. The other popular flavors are lamb and salmon, they are usually available by the most brands. If your pup is a fan of one particular taste, you should find similar one provided by the cheaper brand.

Frequently Asked Questions About Budget Dog Food

  • May dogs with health issues eat cheap food? – Every pet owner should choose food for his dog according to his vet’s recommendations. Some health issues, such as food allergies, don’t always mean a strict special diet, only certain limitations. There are quality affordable dog food on the market which is grain-free or chicken meat-free, so it’s possible to find the right budget solution even for dogs with special needs.
  • I want to switch my dog to the cheaper food but I’m afraid she won’t eat it. How can I help her to get used to the new diet? – When you’re introducing your dog to the new food, you should do it slightly: first, add 10% of the new food into her bowl and then change the ratio of new/habitual food every day until 100%. It is suitable for switching a pet’s diet for other reasons as well.
  • What is meal on the list of ingredients regarding the dog food (i. e. “chicken meal”, “lamb meal” and so on)? – Chicken meal in such context means a source of high quality concentrated protein (300% more than chicken meat itself), mostly consisting of chicken muscle meat. The U. S. law forbids to include in such meal low-protein by-products: feet, heads or intestines.
  • Would it be better for my pup, if I introduce self-cooked dishes to her instead of cheap dog food? – Unlike wolves, who are carnivores, dogs had evolved into omnivores during centuries of domestication. It means that they need not only meat and related products in their diet, but grains, vegetables, and even fruits. If you decide to switch your canine to self-cooked food, you will need to constantly buy and store raw ingredients for it and prepare healthy meals with the right ratio of multiple different elements. In reality, it takes a lot of time, causes much inconvenience (when traveling, as for instance) and, in the end, may turn more expensive than bagged or canned dog food by the premium brands.
  • Can i buy best value dog food with a low budget?
    Unfortunately no. This food is high-end on the market, but you can find the best dog food by price and value, maybe it isn’t the best option, but price will be much better for your purse.
  • What is the best dog food on the market?
    There is no universal food for all dogs. If you’re looking the best, pay attention to the size, breed, age of tour dog and allergies.
  • What is the best affordable dog food brands?
    It’s all brands from our reviews. All of this brands has large product line, so You can find the best option for your breed.


Your wish to get the best dog food for the honest price is natural. Unfortunately, the lower price can mean that the pet food contains a bunch of cheap useless fillers and significantly less nutritious ingredients such as protein, oils and quality fibers, than more expensive brands. Meanwhile, there is dog food of high quality standards which costs not all the money you have. Finding quality food for your furry darling by inexpensive price tag seem difficult, but it’s real. We’ve found the best cheap dog food available on the market today, which may be not as great as premium brands, but still delivers. Use this review and other information about dog nutrition to choose the right food for your canine by the affordable price. Click and read our post about soft dog crate to choose best for your pet.


Images credits: Amazon.com, Chewy.com, photo stocks

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Susan Cropper

As a veterinarian practicing for 48 years, Dr. Cropper brings her priceless experience to all our readers. She is currently taking care of her two rescues, Ollie the Greyhound and Bryce the Pitbull mix, that is why she always sees things as a veterinarian and a pet owner simultaneously.

View all posts by Susan Cropper | DogsRecommend.com