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Holy woof! Have you guys seen the cost of groceries out there?
In a time when inflation is through the roof, it feels like everything costs twice as much as it did a few years ago and so many people are struggling to put food on the table for their families, it feels wildly out of place to be recommending people make their dogs treats from fresh food at home.
And while, when I started doing this more than a decade ago, it was cheaper to just buy fresh meat and make treats at home, nowadays, that’s not always the case. I was looking for a recipe to make Kol last week, I opened one and it started with 2 lbs. of fresh chicken breast and I gasped out loud. What am I? A Rockafeller?! But I know we all still love and adore our four-legged besties and want to do the best we can for them, while also knowing that there’s no shame in having a budget.
You can still make delicious, healthy dog treats at home without breaking the bank.
You just have to be a little flexible or willing to add a couple of steps to your recipe process. There are lots of options out there. Here are my best tips to get the most bang for your buck when making homemade dog treats.
1. Sale shop!
I got it from my Mama; I loved a bargain. She was always looking for great sales, so I could make dog treats. She couldn’t cook worth a darn, but she loved the idea of good, homemade treats for her best boys. Especially when you’re making dehydrated or jerky-style treats, this is the best and easiest way to save money on making dog treats. Find something that’s on sale and then look for the right recipe to work with it, instead of looking for what you need for a specific recipe.
Another great way to save money on meat for dog treats is to look for mark-down products. A lot of grocery stores will discount meat up to 50% if they accidentally ordered too much or if there are less than 48 hours until it reaches its best before date. When working with short dated product, it’s important to cook it right away, so it doesn’t spoil and to ensure any dehydrated treats are flashed after drying to kill off any remaining bacteria, so I only buy this when I have time to make my treats right away. You can also freeze it to save for another day.
Recipe Suggestion: These Turkey Dinner Jerky dog treats are great because you can replace turkey with literally any other meat and it still works great.
2. Swap Pricey Proteins like Chicken Breast for a Less Expensive Alternative
I don’t know how things are in your neck of the woods, but WHAT THE WOOF IS GOING ON WITH THE COST OF CHICKEN BREAST?! *cries* This is one of my favourite proteins for me and for Kol, but oh man. Last week, chicken breasts were about $7 EACH at my local store. ELL OH ELL NO. That’s just not reasonable for me. Luckily, you can always swap chicken breast for a lower-cost protein in most recipes.
My go-to lately is lean cuts of pork – look for pieces that have the word “loin” in them for the leanest, most comparable cuts. Look for cuts with little or no fat veining through the meat and trim off any fatty edges before using. I love buying entire pork loin pieces. I can usually get 2- 3 times as much pork as I can chicken breast for the same price.
Recipe Suggestion: BBQ Pork Dog Chews
3. Use frozen versions of your fav proteins
I can get a 2 kg (4.7 obs-ish) for $22 which is an absolute steal when you compare it to the cost of fresh. And while I don’t love the texture when I use these to cook for myself (the salt makes them taste spongy to me), Kol doesn’t seem to mind it at all.
The only thing to keep in mind when swapping in a frozen product is that these are often soaked in salt water to help keep them looking “plump” and “juicy”. To reduce as much salt as possible, I usually soak them in an ice water bath for around 2 hours to leech out as much salt as possible before I use them in dog treats. If I’m poaching the chicken breasts to kill off bacteria prior to dehydrating them, I’ll toss a few chunks of potato in the water, as potatoes will also help remove the salt.
4. Choose bigger cuts
As much as I love the convenience of buying stir fry strips or pre-sliced meat to make jerky with, that convenience comes at a price. A whole beef roast is way cheaper per pound than the same weight in stir fry packs. And while cheap cuts of roast can be super chewy for humans, CHEWY IS THE GOAL for dog treats. That’s a win-win.
I can get a whole chicken for around $8 which is silly considering that is also the price of a single breast. I can get so many great treats out of a whole chicken and then when it’s done, I can use the frame to make bone broth. It’s hands down one of the most cost-effective options.
Just use caution to ensure you’ve removed all bones from these larger cuts. While I often feed Kolchak raw bones, cooked bones can become brittle, sharp, and can be very dangerous. It’s better safe than sorry.
5. Organ meat treats can be very affordable to make
Most grocery stores sell organ meat for a fraction of what they sell the more popular cutes for. Last week, I got a full tray of chicken hearts for less than $4. While you need to clean organ meat well and it, admittedly, has a less than exciting scent while you’re drying it, it’s extremely flavourful which makes it a big favourite for most dogs.
My best tip for making organ meat treats? I put Kolchak’s metal kennel outside and put the dehydrator inside. This way it’s protected from cats and wildlife while also not smelling up my house.
Recipe Suggestion: DIY Organ Met Dog Treats
6. Mix meat and veg to make a treat your dog will love that doesn’t break the bank
Kolchak loves a meaty treat, but the truth is? He’s just as happy with a veggie treat, with a hint of meaty goodness. One of his favs is Bean Crunchers – dehydrated green and yellow beans, shaken with just a bit of chicken. They’re delicious and healthy – and since I use both frozen veggies and only a bit of meat, very cost-effective. You can easily duplicate this with any dog-friendly vegetable and any protein.
Recipe Suggestion: Kol’s fav Green Bean Crunchers
How do you save money when you’re making dog treats at home? Any hot tips to share with the group?
All of our dogs deserve to be loved, spoiled, and to get the tastiest dog treats we can give them, but it’s also totally unnecessary to break the bank doing it. We’d love to hear all the way you’re cutting costs without sacrificing love