6 Secrets to Save on Pet Food

As a pet owner, sometimes it takes a while to find the perfect pet food. You want to satisfy your own desire for something that is healthy, wholesome, made with (or without) certain ingredients, and that makes you feel like the responsible and loving pet owner that you are, providing the best nutrition you can buy. It can take additional experimenting to find the brand or flavor that is right for your pet's individual taste preferences and health status, especially if your pet has allergies or other diet-related issues. Sometimes, the place where all of those priorities converge can be more expensive than you anticipated.  
Always a budget shopper, I searched high and low until I found the best price on the food that my persnickety cats (one who is picky and one who has health issues) could both enjoy. While an online rewards program was the best deal for us, there are plenty of options out there to help you buy your pet food without breaking the bank. Here are a few creative ways to save on the ongoing cost of buying your pet's food.
Buy in Bulk
In addition to buying staples like whole grains and spices from the bulk bins at your supermarket or health food store, you can also buy pet food and even pet treats in bulk at some stores. Food purchased from bulk bins (even in small quantities) is typically priced lower per ounce (or pound) since you're not paying for packaging, shelf stocking, etc. When you think of "bulk" buying, you may imaging buying large quantities, but that isn't always the case. Usually, you can buy just the right amount for you at any given time. Pet stores also carry bulk food, and they usually have the most options. Some even carry bulk pet treats so you can experiment with different varieties without committing to a whole box.
Store Coupons and Rewards Programs
Many stores these days offer rewards or incentive programs to turn occasional customers into loyal shoppers. If you're willing to open a rewards account with your local pet store (or grocer), you can get valuable coupons, tips on sales, and other deals, such as frequent buyer programs on the items you buy most.
Amazon Subscribe and Save
If you're an online shopper, consider buying pet food via Amazon using the "Subscribe and Save" program, which automatically renews your order on a custom schedule. Not only does the food come right to your door, but you can save even more by buying larger amounts and signing up for a subscription (my pet food is discounted 15%). Amazon typically ships items for free if you spend a certain amount, and if you're a Prime member, your subscriptions are eligible for free shipping! 
Case Discounts
Though it's not widely advertised, most stores (including supermarkets) offer a discount if you buy a case of any single item rather than buying the items individually from the shelf. This discount can range from 5-15% on average, and you can even custom order a case of food from your local store. Inquire at your preferred retailer to see what they offer. This can be a particularly good deal for people who buy canned or frozen pet food that doesn't typically come in larger bags or containers.
Sign Up for Deals Online
Are you loyal to a specific brand of pet food? Visit the manufacturer's website directly to see what kinds of coupons and deals they offer. You can often find coupons to print or use in-store or online just by looking! And if you sign up for an email list, you can often receive even more coupons or short-term specials. One friend of mine signed up for such an email list and now receives a monthly special by email that provides a savings of 10-20% and free shipping on her specialty pet food.

Switch to a Cheaper Brand
Nutritionally speaking, all pet food labeled complete and balanced is the nutritionally equal. You might pay more for higher-quality ingredients (such as organic meat) or fancy packaging, but according to Marion Nestle's book Feed Your Pet Right, there is little difference in the nutritional profile of pricey brands and the generic brands. So compare labels. You just might find a similar (or even the same!) food at a fraction of the cost by choosing a different brand.
Nestle, Marion, and Nesheim, Malden C. 2010. Feed Your Pet Right. New York: Free Press
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Member Comments

our baby ate everything that we placed in front of her. Our daughter`s dogs are not that way and they get ill at foods that brother their tummy. so i guess its the pet and not the food .i can only say love your baby without care but watch and see how they react to foods and do likewise with feeding them. Report
My Girl has environmental allergies,( usually in the fall) Several years ago a Dermatologist that I took her to, suggest a better grade of dog food, that had limited ingredients. I switched her to one and she loves it. I checked at Amazon and they do have her brand and flavor but it is MORE expensive than if I bought it at the pet supply shop we use,( Pets-mart doesn't carry it but a local "boutique" shop does.)

I too, agree with the previous comment regarding dog food choices. This was a poorly researched article. While there are SOME pricey dog foods that have very similar content to the cheap brands, I don't feed those. I always read the label. Just as different people have allergies and dietary needs, so do dogs! Try looking for a grain free, poultry free dog food. You won't find that in the bottom of the barrel "cheap" brands!

Also, if you note the calorie per cup for various brands, you might actually find your daily cost is lower with a better quality food, not to mention the potential savings at the vet. Report
I can't shop bulk. I have a cat that likes to have different foods. Report
I agree with HOPEFUL4KY's post. I was disappointed with the information in this article, especially from a site that focuses on health. Our pet's health is important, and it's our responsibility to make sure we feed them quality food. Report
I would not suggest following this articles advice and switch to a cheaper brand. There is a reason the higher quality brands cost more. They are better foods. Most of us are here on sparkpeople to learn to eat better.... not to go out and eat junk food (mcdonalds, etc) every day. Yet that is essentially what this article advocates. Suggesting to feed a low quality food to save money is just like feeding your dog mcdonalds every day. It isn't what is best for them. The cheap foods are loaded with cheap fillers that aren't the best options for dogs health. Dogs shouldn't be eating a diet laden with corn and corn gluten meal, soy, wheat, or brewers rice. Dogs are carnivores. Their food should be made up mostly of meat, meaning the first few ingredients listed should be meat, not grains. And they should be specified meat sources, not 'animal digest', 'animal fat', or 'poultry by product meal'. You have no idea what the sources of these meats are.
Corn is difficult to digest for dogs, offers limited nutritional value, and many dogs are allergic to it. Corn gluten meal is basically the remains of corn after most of the nutritious bits have been removed. Cheap filler. Brewers rice is a low quality grain used as a filler. Soy and wheat both tend to cause allergies in dogs. In fact, wheat is the most common ingredient to cause allergies in dogs. Soy is used to raise the protein content cheaply in place of using actual high quality meat so they can keep the price low.
Vitman K is also a common ingredient in lower quality dog foods. It has been shown to cause liver problems in dogs.
You also are inadvertently paying more for the cheap food. Dogs can not utilize as much of the cheap foods, so more is expelled as waste. A high quality food is better utilized by the dog and less is expelled as waste. Since the dog is able to utilize more of the high quality food, it doesn't have to eat as much of it, so it balances out paying more up front for high quality food. A bag of good quality food will wind up lasting longer than the cheap brands.


About The Author

Stepfanie Romine
Stepfanie Romine
A former newspaper reporter, Stepfanie now writes about nutrition, health, fitness and cooking. She is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher who enjoys running, international travel and all kinds of vegetables. See all of Stepfanie's articles.