Is cooking for dogs expensive?
When I tell people that I’ve been cooking homemade dog food for my Shelties for the past 4 years, the first question I get is: Isn’t cooking for your dogs expensive?
The short answer: It’s only a little more expensive than the high-end kibble on the market.
The long answer: Yes, it’s more expensive and takes more time, but it’s worth it because of several reasons.
- My dogs and I enjoy cooking day. Tino lays down in front of the oven and guards his dinner while it simmers (proof is in the picture for today’s post).
- I know what ingredients are in their food, and I’ve chosen high-quality meats and vegetables. I can’t afford all organic, but I do use mostly organic fruits and vegetables. I look for meats that are hormone and anti-biotic free.
- Just as with people, healthy living starts with healthy eating. Healthcare companies for people are promoting healthy living as a way to reduce overall healthcare costs and reduce the risks of obesity and diabetes. If that works for people, might it not work for our pets also?
Are you wondering if cooking for your pet is right for your lifestyle? Check out these factors that I’ve found important to consider in the post Is Cooking for Your Dogs Right for Your Lifestyle?
If you shop for specials on meat, it’s possible to reduce the costs of cooking homemade dog food to less that what I’ve estimated my costs to be. When I shop for the ingredients I buy to make my home-cooked dog food, I buy in bulk so I’m pretty confident about the costs I’m sharing, but there are factors that will impact your per-pet costs. Four that come to mind are
- the size of the dog,
- supplements given,
- inflation (as food costs go up, so will the cost of these recipes), and
- the cost of the ingredients. Choosing organic ingredients definitely raises the cost.
To be sure that you have a good idea of how accurate these costs are, this information is based on prices I paid at a Costco store on January 21, 2016. I’ve also figured the weekly cost assuming only one type of meat is used, but more often than not I combine meats.
For example, I use half chicken thighs and half chicken breasts. To reduce the fat content of the stew cooked with red meat, I usually mix about ½ ground turkey with ¼ bison and ¼ ground beef. A stew made with all bison would cost a fortune!
I occasionally feed my boyos fish as well, but I haven’t made fish stew. If anyone has, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Keep in mind, there are a lot of variables. My numbers are based on my choice of ingredients, and I’m sure you can cook for less and still produce a tasty, healthy stew.
Chart of ingredients and costs per week based on the ingredients I use
|Ingredient||Quantity||Cost per/[quantity]||Total cost/week|
|Chicken thighs||5 pounds||$1.99/lb.||$9.95|
|Chicken breasts||5 pounds||$2.99/lb.||$14.95|
|Ground turkey||5 pounds||2.79/lb.||$13.95|
|Organic ground beef (85% lean)||5 pounds||5.59/lb.||$27.95|
|Lean ground bison||5 pounds||7.60/lb.||$38.00|
|Veggies, frozen mix||2 cups||1.80/lb.||$1.80|
|Grains (averaged because I use a variety of different grains including rice, quinoa, and pearl barley)||1 cup||.10/oz.||$0.80|
|Cottage Cheese||28 oz.||.18/oz.||$5.04|
|Canned pumpkin||32 oz.||.19/oz.||$6.08|
|Calcium||I grind up egg shells from eggs I consumed so consider this free|
Summary of costs to cook homemade stew for dogs
Based on the above estimates, the total cost of the stew ranges from $15.05 to $33.06 per week. At most, I use an all red meat mix once a month. On average, the cost per month for two 25-lb. or one 50-lb. dog should be about $60 – $80.
Comparison to kibble based on one friend’s experience
A friend who feeds her 40-lb. Aussie mix a high quality kibble told me it costs her about $45/month for the kibble. She also gives Misty cottage cheese with each meal because Misty enjoys it. She supplements with a multi-vitamin on the advice of her daughter-in-law who is a vet.
Overall costs to feed your dogs will vary depending on the additional foods you give them and the type and quality of supplements. I’ll go into more detail about the extras I give my boyos in future posts. Not all are required, but from my research, it’s very important to supplement calcium when feeding a home-cooked diet. Calcium along with a good multi-vitamin should put to rest most concerns voiced by veterinarians concerned about a balanced diet.
A note for cat owners
I hesitate to write too much about home-cooked stew for cats, but I would venture to say that costs will be similar (adjusting for weight) because the main difference I’ve uncovered in my research is the protein requirement, which is higher for cats. The books I’ve read describe some heartwarming results for cats that weren’t doing well on commercial cat food. If you are a reader or visitor who has personal experience cooking for cats, I’d welcome your insights so please leave comments and share resources you’ve found valuable.