How can I save money of pet food?
Pet ownership can be expensive.
Annual vet bills, kenneling expenses, and pet food are significant costs of owning a dog or cat. You can partially offset some costs with the right pet insurance and relying on friends to pet-sit. But, at the very least, you’re probably spending hundreds of dollars per year or more on feeding your pet.
Fortunately, there are many ways to save money on pet food and enjoy the joys of pet ownership without the financial strain.
The Best Ways to Save Money on Pet Food
The primary factors that determine how much you spend per year on pet food are the type of pet you have, its caloric needs (which typically increase with size and energy levels), and any dietary restrictions.
For example, according to veterinary technician Jenna Stregowski, who writes for The Spruce Pets, the annual cost of dog food ranges from $250 to $700 per year, depending on dog breed and dietary needs.
Similarly, a 2021 study from the American Pet Products Association says that the average dog owner spends $287 per year on food and the average cat owner spends $254.
But regardless of your pet’s needs, you can usually avoid paying full price for pet food by implementing one or more money-saving tricks.
1. Make Your Own Pet Food
There’s nothing wrong with buying pet food from the store if you’re happy with the price and want to save time. But if you’re trying to reduce your pet food bill, making meals for your pet is one of the most cost-effective options.
Many homemade dog food recipes call for inexpensive ingredients like carrots, beans, rice, flour, and even baby food to provide bulk and nutrients. Recipes require a protein source, but even then, you can keep it affordable.
For starters, you can buy meat that’s on sale to save money. Dogs can also eat muscle and organ meats, so you can use ingredients like chicken liver, which costs around $1.75 at Walmart for a 1.25-pound container.
One effective way to find homemade dog food recipes is to ask your vet for advice. You should also consult your vet before making any dietary changes for your pet, even if you already know several recipes. Another source for recipes is to search “dog food recipes” online.
For example, the turkey-and-vegetable dinner recipe from SkinnyMs. calls for:
- Lean ground turkey
- Chicken liver
- Green beans
- Cauliflower florets
- Some olive oil
The recipe yields eight servings, and the cost of vegetables in this recipe is under $2. Lean ground turkey costs approximately $3.50 to $4.25 per pound at Walmart, depending on the brand. Ultimately, that means this recipe yields eight servings for under $10, so you’re paying less than $1.50 per meal, though it could cost more or less based on your dog’s size.
You can also save money on treats and find healthy recipes by searching for “homemade dog treat recipes” online.
One easy recipe from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken involves slicing sweet potatoes thin and baking them at low heat for several hours. Sweet potatoes cost less than $1 per pound at Walmart, so it’s an affordable, easy-to-make treat that’s also healthy.
Making your own cat food and treats is also an effective way to save money on cat ownership. Just note that cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their diets depend almost entirely on meat. As with dogs, talk to your vet before making any changes to your cat’s diet. You can also ask your vet for recipe suggestions or look online for “homemade cat food recipes.”
For protein-rich meals, use meat from your own cooking alongside inexpensive, nutrient-rich gizzards and organs to satisfy their carnivorous diet. For example, The Spruce Pets lists several homemade cat food recipes you can try. One simple recipe calls for:
- A boiled egg
- Some canola oil
- Bone meal tablets
- A multiple vitamin-mineral tablet
Buying supplements for your cat costs a bit upfront. You can find bone meal powder and cat multivitamins on Amazon for around $15 per bottle. As for tuna, eggs, and oil, you’re spending less than $1 per serving for your cat.
Other cat food recipes also call for inexpensive meats like chicken liver or muscle meat like chicken thighs instead of tuna, and you can usually get your cost-per-serving to $1 or less.
By contrast, many wet cat food brands from a pet store like PetSmart cost between $1 to $1.50 per can. Depending on how heavy your cat is, that could be a few dollars per day in wet food costs. So your homemade wet cat food recipe can save you around 25% to 50% on food costs.
For snacks, you can give small amounts of fish to your cat. The next time you make yourself a tuna sandwich, pull a bit of tuna from the bowl before mixing it with mayo and other ingredients. A can of tuna costs around $1.25 at Walmart, so it’s a cheap protein source for both of you.
Just note that according to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, you can overfeed your cat with fish oil, so you should ask your vet for advice and be especially mindful of feeding your cat fattier fish, like salmon.
It’s easy to save money on pet food if you’re willing to cook budget-friendly recipes yourself. Just avoid buying expired meat or anything you wouldn’t eat yourself.
Additionally, always remember the importance of consulting your vet before making dietary changes. Depending on their health, your dog or cat might require certain supplements, so you might need to add vitamins to your recipes to ensure your pet stays healthy.
Similarly, your vet can give you advice on making your recipes, like the ratio of meat to vegetables or carbohydrates.
Note: Raw feeding is becoming increasingly popular among pet owners. But the same dangers of foodborne illness that apply to humans apply to animals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Please check with your vet before switching to a raw diet and do so only under the supervision of an experienced professional.
2. Use Cash-Back Reward Apps
It doesn’t matter if you make your own pet food or buy prepackaged food. Cash-back apps like receipt-scanning apps are useful savings tools for pet owners.
Grocery and big-box retail brands are willing to pay cash-back rewards to encourage shoppers to buy their products. To do so, they partner with rewards apps that pay you for shopping for specific products. Ultimately, that lets you earn cash back on numerous pet food brands or ingredients you can use to make pet food at home.
Several popular apps that have grocery and pet food rebates include:
- Ibotta. Ibotta is one of the most popular rewards apps with pet rebates. With Ibotta, you can usually earn cash back for buying wet and dry dog food, cat food, pet treats, cat litter, and even dog toys from brands like Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Recipe, Petco, and Purina. You redeem cash back through PayPal, Venmo, and free gift cards once you reach $20. Read our Ibotta review for more information.
- Fetch Rewards. Earn Fetch Rewards points for shopping at dozens of partner brands and uploading a picture of your receipt. Fetch Rewards doesn’t have a pet food category, but numerous grocery partners still help you save money if you make pet food at home. You can redeem Fetch Reward points for free gift cards to companies like Amazon, Petco, and 1800PetSupplies, with Amazon gift cards starting at just $3. Read our Fetch Rewards review for more information.
- Drop. You link your credit and debit cards to this app, allowing Drop to track the brands you buy. You must preselect shopping offers, which often include companies like Chewy, PetSmart, Open Farm, and The Farmer’s Dog. You can redeem Drop points for free gift cards to companies like Amazon, H&M, Nike, and Sephora when you reach $25. Many offers pay 1% to 2% cash back, but certain pet offers can pay $50 or more for trying new pet food subscriptions.
- Checkout 51. Checkout 51 pays you cash back for buying products from partner retailers and uploading your receipt for proof of purchase. There are plenty of grocery offers on Checkout 51, but you can also find rebates on pet food and supplies from companies like Beyond Natural, Nature’s Recipe, and Real Pet Food. You can cash out via check once you reach $20. Read our Checkout 51 review for more information.
Ultimately, reward apps don’t make a substantial difference for your finances. But they’re a practical, low-effort way to get free perks on things you were going to buy anyway, such as groceries, household essentials, and pet food.
At the very least, try one or two apps that pay you the next time you restock on pet supplies. Ibotta has the most pet food offers, and you can usually find rebates for around $2 to $4 for buying select brands of dog or cat food.
If you stack these savings with other rewards, like using a cash-back credit card, you can consistently save on everyday essentials and pet food without changing your shopping habits.
3. Save Money With Shopping Browser Extensions
Shopping online for pet food saves time and lets you quickly compare prices between various brands. You’re also saving money on gas since you’re not driving to the store as often.
But another way to save when shopping online is to use money-saving browser extensions. Three leading extensions that help you find deals and score cash-back rewards are:
- Capital One Shopping. The Capital One Shopping extension automatically applies coupon codes at thousands of U.S. retailers when you shop online. You also earn credits for buying products from partner retailers like Pet Mountain and Tailored Pet Foods. You redeem the credits for free gift cards, including cards for Walmart and Petco. Read our Capital One Shopping review for more information.
- Honey. Honey automatically applies coupon codes for thousands of online stores and lets you earn points for shopping at specific partners. You redeem points for free gift cards to companies like Amazon, DoorDash, Macy’s, and Walmart when you reach 1,000 ($10). Read our Honey review for more information.
- Rakuten. With Rakuten, you earn cash back for shopping at thousands of retailers. All you have to do is create an account and select the merchant you want to shop at on Rakuten’s website. Rakuten works with pet care companies like Chewy, Petco, PetSmart, and Pet Supermarket, and you get paid quarterly through check or PayPal as long as you have at least $5 in your cash-back balance. Read our Rakuten review for more information.
If you’re just looking for cash-back rewards, Rakuten is your best option. But Honey and Capital One Shopping are also useful for finding coupon codes automatically. It’s worth testing all three extensions to see which saves you the most money based on your shopping habits.
Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the Capital One Shopping extension using the links we provided.
4. Use Pet Food Coupons
Mobile coupon apps are an effective way to save money on pet food.
If you want a comprehensive couponing solution, try Coupons.com. You can use the desktop version or download the Android or iOS app to find digital coupons and cash-back offers. There’s also a printable coupons section if you prefer using paper coupons in-store.
Pet care is one category, and many coupons grant a few dollars off wet and dry pet food and cat litter. Several brands that usually have coupons include:
- Blue Buffalo
- Kibbles ‘n Bits
Coupons are usually for $1 to $4 off pet food. Read our Coupons.com review for more details.
Other mobile coupon apps and websites you can try include:
Finally, you can sometimes find coupons by searching for deals on pet food brands’ and retailers’ websites.
For example, Hill’s, Petco, and Purina have online coupons and deals sections where you can find online-only savings and print paper coupons to save. Many coupons are for a few dollars off, but you can also find percent-off deals and buy-one, get-one offers for pet food and toys for more significant savings.
Learn more about the do’s and don’ts of couponing before you head to the store.
5. Don’t Overspend on Organic Pet Food Without Reason
According to the Organic Trade Association, the United States organic food market has surpassed the $55 billion mark as of 2020. Whether you believe in buying organic food for health benefits or not, there’s no denying some people are willing to pay a premium for eating food that’s labeled organic.
Pet food isn’t an exception. These days, it seems like every major pet company has its own line of natural products. But like organic food for humans, it often comes with a hefty price tag.
For example, a 40-pound bag of Purina One SmartBlend dry dog food is around $40 on Amazon. By contrast, a 13-pound bag of Purina Beyond Organic dry dog food is $50. That’s a difference of around $1 per pound of dog food versus around $4, which is almost a 400% premium for going organic.
But don’t feel guilty if you don’t buy the most expensive pet food possible. A 2018 report from Cummings Veterinary Medical Center asserts that while organic pet food often has slight nutritional advantages over conventional pet food, the difference is minor and unlikely to result in significant pet health benefits.
The report also states that your best bet is to talk to your veterinarian about what’s best for your pet. If your pet doesn’t need a special diet or you can’t afford premium ingredients, your pet can still be completely healthy on a regular, more affordable diet.
6. Buy in Bulk
Another simple solution to save money on pet food is to buy in bulk whenever you find a deal. Amazon is one reliable option for bulk shoppers due to the selection of brands, competitive prices, and potential free shipping for Prime members.
For example, Costco’s Kirkland Signature dry dog food line generally costs around $1 to $1.25 per pound. According to Statista, the average price of dry pet food kibble in the U.S. is $1.97, making Costco approximately 35% to 50% cheaper. The only catch is Costco’s best price per pound is usually for 40-pound bags, so you’re buying larger quantities of food to save.
Just make sure your pet eats whatever brand you stock up on. Pet food isn’t worth buying in bulk if your pet refuses to eat it.
Additionally, store pet food in a dry and dark space. You can also purchase airtight food storage containers, even before opening the bags. A 33-quart container costs $24.99 on Amazon, but the cost is worth it. Storing food in airtight containers prevents rodents and pests from digging into your bags and keeps food fresh once you open a bag.
Also, always check the per-ounce price on pet food before buying. Often, we assume the largest bag in the store is the best deal. While that’s often true, pet food coupons and sale prices can sometimes make smaller bags more affordable per serving, so don’t let large price tags fool you.
8. Get a Premium Pet Food Subscription
Generally, a pet food subscription costs more than buying food in-store or online. But if you have to buy more expensive brands because your pet has dietary restrictions or allergies, subscriptions can become more competitive than purchasing food in-store.
And when you factor in common subscription box sign-up discounts, you can still save money and upgrade food quality with the right company.
For dogs, popular subscriptions include:
- Ollie. Ollie provides human-grade dog food that’s fresh and never made with fillers or animal by-products. According to Ollie, that’s “as clean as dog parenting gets.” Meal plans start at approximately $4 per day, and you get 50% off your first order and free shipping.
- PetPlate. With vet-recommended recipes, PetPlate lets you find healthy, custom meal plans that cater to your dog’s specific dietary needs. PetPlate uses fresh dog food without filler or animal by-products. You have more plan flexibility with PetPlate than with Ollie. You can buy top-up plans starting at $1.11 per day. They provide healthy food you can add to your dog’s current diet. Alternatively, full meal plans start at $2.85 per day. You also get 50% off your first order and free shipping.
- The Farmer’s Dog. The Farmer’s Dog offers human-grade dog food with vet-formulated recipes to serve your dog’s specific dietary needs. Meals are fresh and don’t use preservatives or fillers. Prices range from $2 to $12 per day, depending on your dog’s weight and breed. It’s on the pricier side, but The Farmer’s Dog stresses its safety standards and use of ingredients approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You get 20% off your first order and always enjoy free shipping.
Cats also have plenty of subscription options. Some of the most affordable options include:
- Darwin’s. Darwin’s offers wet cat food meals that use 100% real meat. The meals are also grain-free to cater to your cat’s carnivorous nature. Recipes don’t use antibiotics or filler and only use USDA-approved ingredients. You can also find plans that support cats with kidney disease. Meal plans start at around $15 per week for 2 pounds of meat per week. There’s also a 10-pound, $14.95 sign-up bonus, and Darwin’s ships for free.
- I And Love And You: If you’re shopping for high-quality cat treats, meals, and meal enhancers, I And Love And You is your best option. Recipes don’t use artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or animal by-products. A 12-pack of wet cat food cans starts at $13.99 for a one-time purchase or $12.59 when you subscribe, which is approximately $1 per meal. You also get free shipping with subscriptions or on orders of $49 or more.
- Nom Nom. With two board-certified veterinary nutritionists behind its meals, Nom Nom offers high-quality wet cat food meals to suit your cat’s nutritional needs. You can even order a gut health kit for $90 to test your cat’s gut microbiome health and to develop meal plans that best match their needs. Meal plans cost around $25 to $30 per week. You get a 25% first-time customer discount, and Nom Nom ships for free.
It’s important to note that certain factors influence subscription prices. When signing up, you answer questions about pet age, gender, weight, activity level, target weight goal, medical conditions, and allergies.
Additionally, some meats, like lean turkey and salmon, are slightly more expensive than meats like beef. As such, your subscription can become more expensive than the starting price.
But subscription boxes use quality ingredients and match your pet’s needs, which helps justify the price. If your pet is grain-free or has a food sensitivity, these recipes provide a nutritious solution and save time.
Cooking natural, allergy-friendly meals at home is likely cheaper than relying on a pet food subscription. But if you want to save time and keep costs reasonable, pet food subscriptions can be worth it, especially if you take advantage of sign-up promotions.
9. Save Money With Amazon
If you prefer online shopping, chances are you already buy your pet food online. But if you’re not shopping for pet food on Amazon, it might be time to make the switch.
Additionally, one way Amazon helps people save money is with its Subscribe & Save program. With Subscribe & Save, you receive discounts for subscribing to regularly scheduled Amazon deliveries for different products. The Subscribe & Save program covers thousands of products under categories like:
- Household essentials
- Beauty products
- Pet food
- Baby supplies
- Cleaning products
- Grocery items
Most subscriptions grant a 5% discount. But if you subscribe to at least five products, you can get up to 15% off your entire delivery (and up to 20% if some of them are baby and kid products). Reaching five products is also realistic since you can subscribe for deliveries of essentials like toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, and grocery products you frequently run out of.
Pet food is also a popular Subscribe & Save category, and eligible brands include:
- Blue Buffalo
If you want the convenience of a subscription but don’t want to pay for an expensive, custom meal plan for your pet, Subscribe & Save is for you. And the savings can add up given how expensive pet food can be.
For example, let’s say you find a 30-pound bag of Blue Buffalo dry dog food for $45 on Amazon. If you order it through Subscribe & Save with at least four other products, you save 10%, or $4.50. If you order the same bag at the same price once per month, that’s $54 in annual savings.
When you consider the total savings on all of your Subscribe & Save products, it’s clear doing more of your shopping on Amazon can help your budget. Plus, you can always cancel, modify, or skip Subscribe & Save orders to avoid ordering products if you’re not out of them quite yet.
Prime members can also use Prime Pantry, Amazon’s exclusive store that carries grocery and household goods at lower prices. Prime Pantry orders have free shipping on orders of $35 or more. Plus, many Prime Pantry products are eligible for Subscribe & Save.
If you’re cooking pet food recipes at home, it’s worth searching for ingredients on Prime Pantry, especially if you’re struggling to reach five products for maximum savings through Subscribe & Save.
Finally, if you want to maximize your savings, shop with the Amazon Rewards Signature Visa card. This card has no annual fee and offers several perks to help you save money on Amazon and everywhere else you shop, including:
- A $50 free Amazon gift card sign-up bonus
- 3% cash back at Amazon and Whole Foods
- 2% cash back at restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations
- 1% cash back everywhere else
If you combine Subscribe & Save discounts with this card, there’s truly no reason to pay full price on pet food ever again. Read our full review of the Amazon Rewards Signature Visa card.
If you’re a Prime member, you can also read our Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card review to learn how you can get unlimited 5% cash back at Amazon.
10. Subscribe Directly Through Pet Care Sites and Pet Food Brands
Amazon isn’t the only online company that lets you save money on pet food. Several pet care websites and pet food brands allow you to shop online and subscribe for deliveries to save money. If you want to buy your regular pet food brand and enjoy the convenience of a subscription while saving a bit of money, this strategy is effective.
Some companies even have first-time order bonuses to save even more. Several affordable pet food delivery options you can try include:
- Chewy. Chewy carries a range of popular pet food brands for dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, and even horses. You get 35% off your first Chewy Autoship order and 5% on all future orders. Savings cap at $20 per delivery. Chewy lets you cancel or modify your subscription at any time. Orders over $49 ship for free, while orders under $49 cost $4.95 in shipping.
- Only Natural Pet. Subscribe for dog or cat food deliveries and save 15% on every order. You also get $15 off your first three orders over $49, and shipping is free on orders over $49 and costs $4.95 otherwise. You can modify, pause, or cancel your subscription at any time.
- Petco. Petco carries a range of pet supplies and food for dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, and rodents. With Petco Repeat, you save 35% on your first subscription order for up to $20 in savings. You also get 5% cash back on all orders through the Pals Rewards program, which you can redeem for future Petco savings. Petco lets you modify, cancel, or skip deliveries at any time. Shipping is free on Petco Repeat orders, although some products, like cat litter, don’t qualify for free shipping unless you spend at least $35. Read Petco’s shipping policy for more information.
- PetSmart. Sign up for PetSmart auto-ship orders to get pet supplies for dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, rodents, and livestock. You save 30% on your first order and 5% on all future orders for a maximum of $20 in savings per delivery. Shipping is free on orders over $49 and costs $5.99 otherwise. You can modify, skip, or cancel your auto-ship plan at any time.
- Purina Stay Happy. You can save 5% on all deliveries by subscribing. The Purina family of brands includes brands like Fancy Feast, Friskies, and Puppy Chow, so there are plenty of options for both cats and dogs. Shipping is free on orders of $50 or more and costs $7.99 otherwise. You can modify, skip, or cancel your delivery at any time.
- 1800PetSupplies. 1800PetSupplies has one of the more extensive catalogs of pet products, including supplies for dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, rodents, pharmacy products, and even pond care. If you subscribe for deliveries, you save 10% on orders. You get free shipping on up to 15-pound orders over $69. Orders over 15 pounds have a $0.30 per-pound fee. Shipping costs for orders under $69 vary depending on your order and state, so consult the shipping policy page for more information. 1800PetSupplies lets you modify or cancel your subscription at any time.
If you try multiple delivery programs, you can take advantage of each site’s promotions. To get the highest discount, you’re probably buying several weeks or months of pet food upfront to get up to the full $20 off most sites offer. That means it takes a while to work through each company to maximize savings. And don’t forget to cancel or pause your next order if you move to a new service.
But sticking with one subscription still adds up over time, even if you save only 5% per order after the first-time promotion.
For example, if you buy one 30-pound bag of dry dog food per month for $40, you save around $24 per year on dog food costs on a 5% savings program (even more if you choose one that gives you a deeper discount). If you buy more expensive brands and also stock up on products like treats or cat litter, it’s even more impactful.
You can also modify or cancel your deliveries anytime with these companies, so you’re not locking yourself into a subscription contract. Once you get your delivery frequency right, you never have to worry about running out of pet essentials again, and you’re saving time and money.
But if you ask pet owners about the benefits of owning a furry (or scaly) companion, they’ll probably say the cost is more than worth it. If you also make the effort to cut down on pet food costs, you can significantly reduce the annual cost of pet ownership.