Best Inexpensive Dry Dog Food Brands (5 budget picks)

Last Updated: October 17, 2023

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Finding the best dog food for your canine companion is important. They need a balanced diet filled with high-quality ingredients to stay healthy. While most people often associate a high price tag with better quality, that's not always the case.

There's plenty of cheaper foods with great ingredients out there. On the same token, there are a number of overpriced formulas stuffed with fillers and byproducts.

Providing your pooch with the best food possible doesn't have to break the bank. The key to finding a good bargain is to know what you're looking for. It's important to know what constitutes a good kibble and what types of ingredients you should avoid.

With a market filled with brands, false claims and buzzwords, this isn't always an easy task. However, with a little bit of extra effort, finding a formula at an affordable price that's healthy is possible.

Here are some great options to get you started.

5 of the Best Budget Dry Dog Foods

1. Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food

Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food

This dog food from Merrick is an affordable option for those wanting to feed their furry friends a great diet without spending a ton of money. 

The first ingredient listed is chicken meal. This is followed by dried potatoes, peas, naturally preserved chicken fat for flavor, and sweet potatoes. Those first few ingredients alone provide a lot of great nutrition.

The recipe is completely grain-free and doesn't have any of the bad stuff you want to avoid like fillers or artificial additives. Instead, it's a simple formula that can keep your pup healthy.

2. Hill's Ideal Balance Grain Free Dog Food

Hill's Ideal Balance Grain Free Dog Food

Hill's Ideal Balance is offering an affordable kibble with this grain-free formula. It features chicken as the main protein source. 

It also contains chicken liver, green peas, and potatoes instead of potentially-harmful fillers.

If you're worried about your pup getting the vitamins and minerals they need, this food has fresh apples, cranberries, and a host of supplements to ensure that your dog is getting all the things they need.

It also uses natural preservatives instead of chemicals.

3. Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Hi Prairie Formula

Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Natural Dry Dog Food

Designed with a wild canine's diet in mind, Taste of the Wild Dog Food[ is a simple recipe that's great for any pooch. The dry food has a high protein content. 

This particular formula utilizes bison as the main source. Superfoods and fruits filled with antioxidants are also thrown into the mix. They provide a healthy dose of vitamins and work to keep your dog's immune system in check.

It even has fatty acids and probiotics for whole-body care.

4. Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food

Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food

If you're looking for an affordable way to switch your dog to a grain-free diet, this Merrick formula is a great choice. 

Deboned chicken is listed at the top of the ingredient's list. It's followed by chicken meal, turkey meal, and sweet potatoes. Omega fatty acids are included thanks to the salmon meal. They can help develop good skin and heart health.

Additional supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin are also added to help your dog's joints as they get older.

5. Iams Proactive Health Adult Minichunk Kibble

Iams PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult Dry Dog Food - Minichunk Kibble

This Iams recipe uses lean chicken as the main protein source. It's listed at the top of the ingredient's list. A bevy of fruits and vegetables are thrown in to give your dog a complex nutritional profile. 

These include green peas, spinach, carrots, and much more. Antioxidant-rich foods are also added to support your pup's immune system.

Iams has also formulated this food to include plenty of fiber and prebiotics so that your dog's digestive system stays healthy throughout their life.

6 Shopping Tips for Cheap Dog Food

When you're browsing the dog food aisle for the best available recipe, there are a few things you need to know. Not all dog foods are made the same. Just because a product or brand is on the pricier top shelf doesn't mean that it's always better than that cheaper option tucked away in the corner.

Read the ingredient's list and study each package so that you're fully informed about what a product has to offer your dog.

Here's what you can look for to find the best kibble that will make your dog thrive.

1.  Look for a Stamp of Approval

The AAFCO, or Association of American Feed Control, is an organization that regulates the sale of animal feed. This includes dry dog food.

The AAFCO will often endorse certain formulas to help consumers like you find a food that's healthy.

Look out for a nutritional statement on the bag from the AAFCO. This means that the food has met all of the organization's dietary standards for dogs.

2.  Go Holistic, Organic, or Grain-Free

These types of formulas are often specifically designed with simplicity in mind. This is a great way to find the best recipes with quality ingredients  that are free of unnecessary fillers.

Check out the ingredients list to ensure that the claims on the package match up to what's actually in the product.

3.  Stick to Identifiable Protein Sources

Whole proteins are always best. These include animal meats like chicken, turkey, lamb, and much more. You should stay away from mystery meats.

By-products and meat meals come from questionable sources.

As a good rule of thumb, never go with a dog food that doesn't directly identify what type of animal the protein is coming from.

If you're trying to choose the most affordable (less pricey) food option available, you may find that you can't find recipes with quality protein sources. A good second alternative to whole meat would be a meal.

Some common ingredients include a chicken meal or turkey meal. These are also acceptable.

Meals simply mean that the source was ground up prior to adding it to the mix. Again, stick with an identifiable meat source. Chicken meal is great. However, meat meal is not.

4.  Avoid Bad Fillers

Cheap fillers are very easy to find in dog foods. They're commonly used in cheap dog food to cut back costs. While it may be tempting to go with one of these options, it's best to avoid them for your dog's sake.

Fillers like corn, wheat, and soy do more harm than good. They don't agree with your dog's digestive system and can lead to pretty messy stomach problems.

There are some affordable ingredients that can be used as an alternative to filler. One of the most common is sweet potato.

Sweet potatoes are complex carbohydrates that will provide your dog with energy. They have more nutritional content and are better for your dog than corn or wheat.

Related: 7 Bad Dog Food Formulas to Avoid

5.  Additional Supplements

Don't be afraid to go with foods that have additional supplements. If your dog can't get the nutrients from the ingredients in the food, supplements are the next best thing.

Look out for things like glucosamine, chondroitin, vitamins minerals, and sources of omega fatty acids like salmon oil. They'll provide your dog with all the same health benefits.

6.  Steer Clear of Artificial Additives

Ingredients like chemical preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavors have no place in your dog's diet. They can cause allergic reactions and other unwanted health issues. They're completely unnecessary.

Even cheap dog food brands can use natural alternative ingredients and keep costs low.

Over to You

You don't have to spend a ton of money to keep your dog healthy. By knowing what to look for in a cheaper quality dog food, you can choose a kibble that's balanced, beneficial, and fits best within your budget.

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.