Best Budget-Friendly Dog Foods

The best affordable and budget-friendly dog food is NUTRO Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Duck Dog Food.

Looking after a dog is a somewhat expensive endeavor. You have the bills, the supplies, the dog foods… and the older they get, the more the costs add up!

This can then make it difficult for owners to look after their dogs as well as possible – to afford the nutritious diets that they need, without cutting inevitable corners to save money.

Fortunately, there are a lot of very nutritious (and affordable) dog foods out there that provide tons of energy and nutrients without breaking the bank. These budget-friendly options can be up to 60% cheaper as compared to premium dog foods. 

Let’s take a look at some of the best affordable and budget-friendly dog foods which we have identified.

#1 NUTRO Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Duck Dog Food

Our top pick is always the option that we think provides the very best features and benefits when compared with all the other items on our list. In this case, the top pick goes to Nutro Grain Free –which is a natural and grain-free dog food that doesn’t have any chicken by-product, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial flavorings.

That’s all the stuff that you would normally expect to look for in the very most expensive dog foods – and yet here it is with a fantastically affordable price tag! The Nutro Adult Grain Free dog food uses farm-raised chicken as the primary ingredient – real, lean protein. It also has added vitamins and nutrients and real potatoes for energy.

It’s not 100% perfect as the meal chicken is used– but it’s sourced in the best way possible.

This dog food is a great, all-round canine dog food with a lot to recommend, especially at this price. It’s an affordable and budget-friendly option for those with a tight budget.


  • Perfect dry food mix for adults and comes in a large 36-lb bag.
  • Comes in different flavors like lamb and sweet potato.
  • Does not contain soy, corn, dairy protein, or wheat, which are usually known for causing stomach upsets and slow digestion.
  • Each bag of NUTRO is made with ten ingredients or less and is rich in vitamins, minerals, natural flavors, and many other nutrients.
  • The ingredient mix helps your pup’s coat stay soft and shiny.


  • Some of the ingredients can cause stomach illness in extremely sensitive dogs.
  • Besides duck, not all pups will enjoy the available flavors, including lamb, salmon, and venison.

This product is definitely our top choice because it guarantees to improve both skin and coat conditions and is formulated with only 10 or fewer non-GMO ingredients, making it ideal for dogs with food-sensitivity issues.

#2 Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Dry Dog Food

On a list of affordable and inexpensive dog foods, our budget-conscious choice is of course always going to be the dog food that provides the very best value for money. In this case, that’s this offering from Pedigree – which is one of the best known and trusted dog foods brands around, so that’s a good start!

This dog food is packed with healthy protein, no added sugar or artificial flavors, and lots of additional nutrients. 

Keep in mind though that whole corn is the primary ingredient here, which will be off-putting for some. It’s also made from meat and bone meal – though the bone meal does offer a great source of calcium, glucosamine, and other good stuff.

While you should be a little suspect of ‘complete balanced’ diets from a single dog food, this particular dog food does have a fair claim to that title. It’s also a food that dogs love and that offers very good value for money. It would be better without corn as an ingredient though.


  • Comes in one large 36-lb bag of dry dog food, available only in roasted chicken, rice & vegetable flavor.
  • Your pup is assured of a nutritious meal thanks to the combination of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and omega-6.
  • Proper digestion is made possible thanks to the whole grain in the food mix.
  • Does not contain sugar, corn syrup, or artificial flavors.
  • Each product is proudly made in the USA, and you are assured of the quality local ingredients it uses.


  • Contains some corn which can slow down digestion and cause skin allergies.
  • Dogs with sensitive stomachs can experience stomach upsets caused by any one of the ingredients in the food mix.

#3 Hill’s Science Diet Adult Dry Dog Food

Put ‘science’ in the title and the assumption is that a product will be better designed and higher quality than the competition. Is that true here?

Well, we have an affordable product that is made primarily from chicken meal – which isn’t ideal but keep in mind that chicken meal is preferable to other types of meal. What’s better is that this high-quality dog food is formulated for specific sizes, allowing you to pick the right amount of calories and nutrition for your dog.

It’s also a great source of glucosamine and calcium – both important for bone health and connective tissue. It’s high in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, and lots of other added vitamins and minerals too.

This affordable dog food may rely on chicken meal – and include a large amount of wheat and gluten – but it does have a lot of other positives going for it. If you’re not against the inclusion of wheat and meal, then it might be a good value option. It’s definitely one of the cheaper dog food brands in the market.


  • Ideal for large dogs and helps with lean muscle growth and maintenance thanks to its high-quality protein and 364 kcal/cup calorie content.
  • Rich in natural ingredients which are easy to digest and help to boost your doggie’s energy levels.
  • Contains prebiotic fiber, which helps with food digestion.
  • Contains omega-6 and vitamin E, which help to keep their coat shiny and soft.
  • Available in chicken and lamb flavors, so your furry friend can choose their preferred flavor.


  • Some pups may not like the strong aroma of this dog food product.
  • Depending on your pup’s stomach sensitivity, it can make them feel sick, as reported by select customers.

#4 Diamond Naturals Adult Dog Food

This is a high protein mix that provides your dog with the amino acids they need to build big strong muscle without gaining unwanted fat. The great news here is that this is also made from actual real beef – pasture-raised beef and not ‘meal.’

It also contains an additional nutritionally beneficial ingredient often missing from these products: probiotics. Probiotics contain healthy live cultures of bacteria that help to break down food to aid digestion, while also improving the immune system, energy, mood, and much more! Then there are all the fortified nutrients like glucosamine and omega-3.

There’s no corn, no wheat, no filler, and artificial flavors.

The budget-friendly dog food is one that dogs really love the flavor of and that you can be sure will go down a treat. At the same time, it has some of the most high-quality ingredients of any dog food, let alone one this affordable.


  • The adult dog formula contains K9 Strain Probiotics, which help to boost the immune system and promote healthy digestion.
  • Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which not only help the brain and eyesight but also help with keeping your doggie’s coat shiny and soft.
  • Contains vitamins, minerals, proteins, and antioxidants, which help dogs with their immunity, digestion, and overall wellness.
  • Contains real beef protein and comes in beef and rice flavor, which makes it tasty for your furry friend.
  • Comes in a large 40-lb bag such that this bag can last you and your pup for a good amount of time.


  • Some of the ingredients, like grain and protein, may not be ideal for pups with sensitive digestive tracts.
  • Not all dogs will like the beef and rice flavor.

#5 Purina One Smartblend Adult Dry Dog Food

This budget-friendly dog food is made with high-quality protein, natural lamb (no meal or by-product), rice, and more.

While it does have a lot of very healthy and natural ingredients though, it does also include a couple of things that might raise one or two eyebrows. In particular, it contains chicken by-products and corn/corn gluten meal. Corn is an issue for those that are trying to avoid corn and wheat in their dog food due to potential digestion issues.

Meanwhile, the meal shouldn’t provide an issue as you are getting real, fresh meat as well. Note too that chicken meal is largely considered to be preferable to other types of meal.

Otherwise, we really like the inclusion of extra vitamin D, as well as omega-6 (not as good as omega-3 but still not bad), and glucosamine from natural sources.


  • Comes in a variety of flavors like chicken and rice or lamb and rice, and this gives your doggies options when it comes to taste.
  • The real chicken formula offers a dual-defense antioxidant blend that gives your furry friend a stronger immune system.
  • The tender meaty, and crunchy pieces are rich in protein and help with your doggie’s overall development.
  • Contains omega-6 fatty acids, and these give doggies a soft, healthy, and shiny coat.
  • Contains no filler ingredients, which means all that goes into this dog food has a purpose, and the formula is also easily digestible.


  • Contains corn and wheat, which for some pups can slow down digestion and cause stomach discomfort.
  • Some owners have reported that their doggies throw up after eating this dog food, and this could be a negative reaction to some of the ingredients.

#6 IAMS Minichunks Adult Dry Dog Food

This dog food from IAMS comes from another big and highly recognizable brand. It also contains probiotics and prebiotics to help improve digestive health, absorption of key nutrients, immunity, and much more.

The number one ingredient here is real farm-raised chicken. And real chicken is the ingredient, not the ‘source of protein’ as with so many lesser products. We also love the inclusion of the fiber and the extra antioxidants. It’s also reassuring to know that this high-quality inexpensive dog food comes vet-approved and often recommended.


  • Comes in a 30-lb bag, which consists of small kibble sizes which your doggies will like.
  • The real farm-raised chicken formula is rich in protein which helps to build strong muscles.
  • Made of natural ingredients and contains no flavors, fillers, or artificial preservatives, which offers pups proper nutrition.
  • Contains a balanced blend of prebiotics, antioxidants, and fiber, which helps with the immune system and proper digestion.
  • Made in the USA with well-sourced local and international ingredients.


  • Not ideal for doggies with wheat or gluten allergies, as it causes itching and bald spots.
  • It is not recommended for pups with specific tastes as it might be a waste of money buying dog food they will not enjoy.

#7 Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Dog Food

As the name suggests, this dog food provides real chicken and real vegetables, meaning that your dog gets real nutrients in a way that is easy for them to absorb, and which will improve their digestion, their chewing strength, and more.

As well as containing all the good stuff, we’re also happy to report that this dog food formula avoids all the bad stuff! That means no by-product meal, no filler wheat, and no wheat gluten ingredients. There is some Turkey meal in here though, and there is also a little corn and corn gluten meal – worth noting seeing as the wording is a little deceptive on that front.

But don’t let this put you off. This is still an excellent yet affordable dog food that dogs enjoy and that will provide a ton of nutritional benefits as well.


  • Comes in a real farm-raised chicken and veggies recipe inspired by renowned chef Rachael Ray.
  • Contains added vitamins and minerals, and these help with your doggie’s growth, immunity, and development.
  • Contains real chicken fat, a source of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which help to keep the skin and coat healthy, soft, and shiny.
  • Contains peas and brown rice, which are a source of digestible carbohydrates and fiber which help with digestion and energy levels.
  • For each purchase, a portion of the proceeds goes to help animals in need through the Rachael Ray Foundation.


  • Contains soy meal, whole ground corn, and corn gluten meal which some dogs are allergic to.
  • Some of the ingredients may not be recommended for dogs with sensitive digestive systems.

#8 Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Dry Dog Food

Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food is our last pick which wins major points for being grain-free (completely), highly digestible, and high in protein. It supports a shiny coat, it is high in a range of vitamins and minerals, and it is generally a tasty and healthy treat.

Keep in mind that while it lists ‘high-quality protein’ as the primary ingredient, this is still pork meal as opposed to fresh meat. That’s a small price to pay though for a dog food this affordable that really does manage to completely steer clear of corns, wheat, or other unwanted ingredients that can hamper digestion and overall health.


  • Contains ingredients like tapioca starch, chicken meal, lupini bean flour, salmon meal, lamb meal, and salmon meal which give the dog food an appealing taste.
  • Contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids, minerals, pea protein, and superfoods like blueberries which boost the immune system and help with doggie body development.
  • The formula includes essential fatty acids, and these are responsible for healthy skin and a shiny, soft coat.
  • This dog food has some field-grown vegetables which provide fiber for proper digestion.
  • Does not contain soy, wheat, or corn, making this food suitable for pups suffering allergies due to these ingredients.


  • Non-returnable, which means you could waste money if your pup is not satisfied with this dog food.
  • Some pups may be allergic to ingredients like salmon and gluten, so caution must be exercised when choosing your dog food.

Budget-Friendly & Affordable Dog Food Buyers’ Guide

In this buyers’ guide, we’re now going to break down all of the good and bad things to look out for when choosing a cheaper dog food option, and we’re going to explain what everything means.

This way, you should be better able to choose a cheap dog food brand that will satisfy your own personal priorities, and that will support your pooch’s health to the max while respecting your budget.

Does It Have Protein?

The first and arguably most important thing to look for when choosing an affordable dog food is protein. Dogs are carnivores – they are descended from wolves and they simply would not have eaten large amounts of vegetation. Therefore, dogs are evolved to thrive on meat.

When your dog eats protein, it will break that protein down into the constituent amino acids and then recombine them in order to form muscle tissue, enzymes, and connective tissues. Through this process, your pooch will effectively be ‘recycling’ the meat in their diet in order to rebuild their own meat.

So, protein is important.

But just because an affordable dog food says ‘high in protein’, you shouldn’t necessarily take this at face value. First: ask yourself whether that protein is really the primary ingredient. To find out, check the ingredients list and see which protein is listed first in the list. The one at the top is the one that is there in the highest quantities. So, if a dog food has corn or rice as the first listed ingredient, is it really ‘high in protein’?

The other thing to ask, is just whether that protein is actually good quality or not. The best sources of protein are fresh, real sources of meat. That means whole chicken, pork, beef, salmon, or the like. Meat is preferable to vegetables because it is more ‘bioavailable’ – that is to say that it more closely resembles the protein that is used in your dog’s body, and therefore it is more readily converted into muscle, sinew, skin, and flesh.

Related: Best High Protein Dog Foods

Image from Dr. Marty Pets

Look At Its Nutrients Content

So now we’ve seen the importance of good quality meat, how about those nutrients?

Look at the back of any cheap dog food product, and you’ll likely find all kinds of different nutrients and extras. The question, though, is whether those nutrients are actually going to do any good – and what they are in the first place!

Common culprits include l-carnitine, glucosamine, lutein, omega-3 fatty acid, omega-6 fatty acid, probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Let’s break them all down one at a time.

L-Carnitine, Glucosamine & Lutein

So, l-carnitine is a nutrient that helps the body to produce energy. More of this leads to a healthier, happier, and slimmer dog. Glucosamine prevents the breakdown of connective tissue and cartilage, thereby preventing bone issues. Lutein is beneficial for eye health and can prevent macular degeneration as well as cataracts – both issues afflicting many older dogs.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Omega-3 fatty acid prevents inflammation, helps with the permeability of cell walls, and improves brain function and mood. Omega-6 works in tandem with omega-3 – though it is more readily available in modern diets for dogs, so its necessity is sometimes called into question.


Probiotics are made from healthy cultures of bacteria. Contrary to popular belief, not all bacteria are bad, and not all bacteria are ‘germs’. We also have healthy bacteria that live in our guts, and which help your pooch dog by breaking down food, killing off germs, and even producing key neurotransmitters and hormones (regulating our mood, improving weight loss, and doing more good stuff besides).


Antioxidants are similarly important for dogs. These are nutrients that combat the effects of free radicals. Meanwhile, free radicals are reactive molecules that can damage cells when they come into contact with them – leading to the visible signs of aging over time and potentially even breaking through to cause genetic mutations leading to cancer.

Vitamins And Minerals

Vitamins and minerals finally include the likes of vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and then minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. All these vitamins and minerals are micronutrients and play various important roles throughout the body. Calcium strengthens bones along with vitamin D, vitamin C and D improve the immune system and fight illness, potassium prevents cramping, vitamin E improves the skin – the list goes on and on.

While any affordable dog food that lists a number of these ingredients is going to be very beneficial, it’s important to remember that where the nutrients come from is also important.

In particular, the best source of these nutrients is any natural and healthy option. Added vitamins that have been put in afterward may not exist in the right quantities, or with the right additional ingredients – which can make them less easy to absorb and use. In other words, they become less bioavailable.

Look for inexpensive dog foods that come with lots of vegetables and fruits inside to get the most of these benefits.

Related: Best Dog Multivitamins

Image from Darwin’s Pet

Look Out For Wheat, Gluten, Or Additives

Besides looking for all the things that affordable dog foods claim to add in, you should also be mindful of the things you do not want. Good examples include wheat, corn, and gluten. While these ‘filler’ ingredients are generally considered harmless and may even add some nutritional benefit, the thing to keep in mind is that dogs and wolves would not naturally eat corns and grains in the wild.

Not only that, but it’s also useful to keep in mind that corns and grains might actually be harmful to a dog’s digestion. Just like humans, dogs can sometimes have difficulty absorbing gluten, and this can cause the ‘villi’ lining the stomach to fail to absorb other nutrients too. If your pooch has a bad stomach, then switching to a genuinely corn-free diet might be a good strategy.

It’s also important to think carefully about the inclusion of additives, preservatives, sugar, and salt. These ingredients serve to help the manufacturers by making the dog food tastier and easier to store for long periods – but they don’t help your canine companion. These ingredients might be additive, some can be detrimental to their hormone balance and general health, and often they will lead to other issues such as bad teeth.

Related: Best Grain Free Dog Foods

Avoid High Sugar Content

Lots of added sugar, in particular, is something that you should try to avoid. As in humans, sugar can be destructive to a dog’s diet by spiking insulin levels and leading to diabetes (a common issue for dogs), and by causing damage to the teeth and more.

Other Considerations

The best (and cheapest) dog food then, is one that is made from natural ingredients: real meat, real fruits and vegetables, and as little filler as possible. This should mimic a dog’s natural diet in the wild.

That’s where online fresh dog food delivery companies such as Pet Plate might be an option that you can consider. 

But at the same time, you should also make sure that your dog food meets other criteria. For one, you need to be able to afford it! Obviously, the higher quality the ingredients, the more you can usually expect to pay. This is why as with any product, the key is to look for great value in the price-to-ingredients ratio.

Another consideration is the amount you are getting, and whether the affordable dog food has been specifically formulated for the age and size of your dog. While this isn’t a requirement, it is often better to find dog foods that are formulated for a certain size for the breed of dog as these will offer the optimal balance of nutrients and energy for their size.

One last tip is that where possible, you should try to provide your pooch with a mixed and varied diet. While some cheaper dog foods will claim to offer an entire balanced diet, it is a mistake to rely purely on a single dog food source as this will mean the specific nutrients are limited.

A mixture of healthy, natural dog foods – and different flavors – will keep your furry friend happier and healthier in the long term.

Final Thoughts

Any of the above dog food brands will serve your pooch extremely well and support good health. They are cheaper than most other canine food brands and provides a great value for money purchase (while being budget-friendly). 

We really like the Nutro Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food for its price tag and its nutritional value. It is easily the best high quality dog food for your pooch that would not break your bank.

By now, you would know what to look for when choosing from other brands. The secret is very simple: go for the most natural, varied, and authentic looking ingredients list possible.

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Pete Decker