Buying the right food for your dog is important — but so is making sure you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to pay for it.
The American Kennel Club estimates that dog food costs an average of $446 annually. Of course many factors play into food costs: the size of your dog, cost of living expenses in your part of the country and the type of food you buy. You may spend much more than $446.
Don’t despair, though. Options abound for the smart shopper. Take a look at these 5 ways to save.
1. Free Samples — Not a Myth
Free samples allow you to try something new without paying. Websites such as Sample Buddy offer quick and easy ways to see which dog food manufacturers and producers offer free samples. Often, these websites merely require you to sign up by e-mail.
Another way to score free samples: Contact your chosen dog food company directly and register, participate in surveys or simply by sign up to receive offers by e-mail. Purina One recently offered free samples of its small dog blend — all an interested consumer needed do was answer 1 question and register.
The samples are out there – you just have to dig a little for them. Make Google and Bing your best friends and start searching.
Also, don’t forget to check with your veterinarian — she may have a new food she’s trying out and may give you a sample.
2. Wholesale Savings
Shop at wholesalers such as Sam’s Club, Costco or BJs. You will buy more dog food than you are used to buying, but this way you save money. For example:
Price of Purina Dog Chow:
- Petco: 32 lb. bag for $23.91
- Sam’s Club: 55 lb. bag for $23.98
Pull out your calculator and break down the cost per pound. For our examples above, we see that Petco will sell you Purina Dog Chow at 75 cents a pound — but you can get it at Sam’s Club for 44 cents a pound.
Be sure to check the expiration dates. Getting 10 bags at once saves you time and money later, but it will be no good if the food expires before you can feed it to your dog.
3. Buy Cheap Food
Although this method saves you money, it’s not the best answer. You should research brands and discover why certain dog foods are priced lower than those of the competition.
Some brands have been recalled many times in the past. Others have a high “junk” content — food colorings and preservatives. What you feed your dog is up to you, but always read the labels and understand what’s in the food. The FDA has a guide to understanding pet food labeling on its website.
In the long run, buying cheap costs more. Dogs who are not getting adequate nutrition often suffer from a slew of medical issues — driving up your veterinary bill.
4. Homemade Dog Food
Another option for do-it-yourselfers is to make dog food at home. This can be cheaper than buying dog food and has the added benefit that you know exactly what is going into your pet’s dish every day.
Develop a strong sense of what is best for your dog — and what isn’t. Recipes are generally relatively easy, but make sure you’re meeting the daily requirements for nutrition. When in doubt, check with your vet.
Thinking about making dog food at home? Read this article first.
5. Ask Around
There are a lot of savvy shoppers out there. Take advantage of their know-how and ask how they save on dog food. I did, and here are some of the answers I got:
- Joanne from Massachusetts: “I shopped the best-quality food for the best price, and I found that Authority from PetSmart is the best…and we buy the biggest bags possible. It’s always cheaper per pound.”
- Betsie from North Carolina: “Shopping online for price comparison. Sometimes auto shipments will save 5-10%.”
- Sarah from Mississippi: “We buy in bulk — the biggest bag we can find!”
Your friends also may have great solutions of their own, so put your heads together.
Feeding your dog a balanced diet is important, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Consult your vet when making changes to your pet’s food — and ask about those free samples.