The problem

If you’re on a tight budget, you might think that you’re doomed to buying your dog grocery store brand food forever.

They’re dirt cheap, yes; but those recipes may also be made with low-quality meats and additives that may, over time, lead to some health complications. A mixture of estimations of digestibility coefficients and laboratory analyses is the only proper way to accurately perform and complete an evaluation of the quality of a commercial diet.

The solution

While budget-friendly foods will never afford your dog the luxury of human grade Angus beef, there’s a compromise to be found between the two extremes.

With a little bit of digging, you can find dozens of companies that all strive to offer balanced nutrition from reputable sources at an affordable price.

Inexpensive dog food options

It sounds too good to be true, but in this case, they really do exist! In this article, we rounded up five good brands and flavors that are easy on the wallet that your dog is sure to enjoy.

Taste of the Wild | High Protein Natural Dry Dog Food

If your dog loves to go outside, then he might also like a Taste of the Wild, too. This formula offers great balance thanks to its probiotic support and inclusion of berries for increased digestive health, while still giving your dog a solid base of nutrients with extremely tasty meats as the primary ingredients.

The protein levels are more moderate than some other super-premium foods, but at least the rest of the ingredients don’t contain any filler.


  • Manufactured in facilities throughout the USA
  • Kibble is big enough to encourage dogs to chew their food


  • Some dogs prefer a different flavor

Customer feedback

Most customers and their dogs are quite happy with their Taste of the Wild food. The company is accessible for questions and provides timely responses, which allows owners with finicky eaters to get advice before purchasing, potentially saving them a few dollars.

Dogs adore the taste of most flavors but are thankfully encouraged to chew the food which helps to slow down fast eaters. There have been some concerns about bad batches as of late last year, but the company very rarely experiences recalls, so there shouldn’t be anything widespread to worry about quality-wise as of right nor.

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Merrick Whole Earth Farms | Grains Free Recipe Dry Food

For a nice initial step-up from grocery store food, Merrick is a great introductory bag to examine whether higher-quality foods have a noticeable effect on your pup.

All their meats are sourced from European and Commonwealth countries that have high standards for their farming practices, which means your dog will be getting all the nutrients with none of the additives or chemicals.

The formula does tend to change occasionally, but they continue to maintain the same standards in the ingredients they use.


  • Great prices for large size bags
  • Meat is sourced from countries with high standards


  • Formula frequently changes

Customer feedback

Dogs adore the taste and smell of the Merrick foods and come running each time the bag is opened, and this happiness is what’s most important to the customers buying the product.

After just a few short weeks owners noticed that their dog’s coats were shinier than usual and that they had more energy, which is great for senior dogs that are beginning to slow down.

However, because the formula changes every so often, picky dogs can sometimes stop eating a new bag abruptly which starts the search for a new recipe all over again.

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Hill’s Science Diet | Adult Advanced Fitness Dry Dog Food

Hill’s Science Diet has been the vet recommended dog food for decades, a reputation that’s well earned considering the value on offer. Real meat is always the first ingredient on the list, and it’s supplemented with vitamins, omega fatty acids, and vegetables.

The company claims that their food can improve your dog’s skin and coat in just 30 days, and while that’s not necessarily something you can count on, it’s hard to argue with the fact that dogs, at the end of the day, simply enjoy the food.


  • Has nutritionally balanced formulas for both small and large breeds of dogs with different requirements
  • Great for sensitive stomachs


  • Not suitable for all ages, so owners of senior dogs should keep looking
  • Not grain free

Customer feedback

It’s not a perfect recipe, but for most owners, the benefits to this food far outweigh the cons. Dogs have no trouble digesting it and they don’t need to eat an absurd amount every day which helps reduce bloating and keeps the bag, and your wallet, fuller for longer periods of time.

Unfortunately, because the formulas are not grain-free, many dogs might experience allergic reactions to the food. Because of this, consider trying a smaller size of the bag before committing to a 25-pound purchase.

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NUTRO MAX | Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food

If you’ve established that your dog just can’t deal with the added corn and wheat of Hill’s Science, then consider NUTRO MAX as a grain-free alternative that’s not much more expensive.

It uses the highly nutritious chicken meal as its primary ingredient but also tosses in meats like lamb to give a different taste and aroma that will help lure in your dog.

The actual kibble is on the small size, though, so if your dog wolfs down his or her food, you might not enjoy the results afterward.


  • No by-products of any kind
  • Uses non-GMO ingredients


  • Contains alfalfa for added “filler” protein

Customer feedback

Most customers turn to NUTRO MAX due to their problems with other brands, and their complaints are usually rectified. Owners note that with a few weeks of eating this food recurring problems like scooting or farting are often completely eliminated.

Many customers are concerned that ingredients like potatoes are prone to developing problems with yeast, which then gets passed on to their dog. As with any commercially produced dog food, your mileage may vary, but if your dog ever experiences any symptoms the customer support line is just a short phone call away.

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Rachael Ray Nutrish | Natural Dry Dog Food Real Chicken & Veggies Recipe

You know her as a celebrity chef for people, but as it turns out she’s also the face of her own dog food line, Rachael Ray Nutrish; and it’s a pretty darn good one, too.

This concentrated food requires only 4 or 5 cups of food per day for even large breeds and is formulated with pure chicken and chicken meal as the primary ingredients. This gives your dog some extra nutrients while still packing in more water into your dog’s diet.


  • Portion of profits goes to pet charities
  • Ingredients sourced locally


  • Not grain free

Customer feedback

The most important aspect to choosing a dog food is knowing that your dog will eat it, and customers are thankful that upon bringing the food home their dogs were dying to dig their way into the bag. An added benefit is that the formula remains consistent, so if your dog likes the food then it’s likely that they always will.

Like we saw earlier, the addition of rice can cause some stomach distress if your dog has a particularly sensitive stomach, but that’s the only stand-out ingredient that you need to wary of. If your dog has enjoyed some grains before without issue, then feel free to give this one a shot.

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Final say on choosing cheap dog food

Dog food can be quite expensive, particularly if you’re the owner of a large breed or giant breed. Your puppy will tear through bags faster than you can keep up, and if you have other things you need to budget for, then you’ll likely have to turn to a more affordable brand.

Thankfully, this doesn’t mean you have to compromise on quality. All the options we listed here are nutritious and healthy for your pet to eat for the rest of their lives. If they enjoy the flavor then you can feel comfortable giving them something great, while keeping some bills in your bank account.