5 Ways to Cook for Your Dog on a Tight Budget

Try these tasty, affordable homemade treats and main courses to keep your dog happy and healthy.

August 1, 2012

Your dog will crave carrots once you cook up the Mutt Loaf recipe!

Think your dog loves you now? Wait 'til you start whipping up some of these delicious homemade dog food recipes that, luckily, are also easy on the wallet. These treats and meals will help you get your feet wet in creating K-9 cuisine and help crank up your comfort in making homemade meals for your pooch. After all, when you have control of your dog's meal plan, you're in control of the ingredients—something many pet owners care about these days, given recent pet food recalls. Plus, cooking for your dog ensures your pet eats a diverse menu full of plant nutrients that aren't always readily available in commercial dog foods. "While proteins, vitamins, and minerals provide the base for keeping our bodies going, it's the wider variety of proteins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants in fresh foods that determine the long-term shape of the health of us—and our pets," explains Rick Woodford, author of Feed Your Best Friend Better.


Below, we share 5 delicious recipes from Woodford's book that you can whip up on the cheap. The beauty of this? You can mix half homemade food with half high-quality commercial dog food to save time and money.

Chicken Stock

While it's never a good idea to feed chicken bones to dogs, you can create a healthy, nourishing broth from a properly prepared chicken carcass. When making this stock for the dogs, you can pack it with flavors and use it as an excuse to clean out the fridge a bit. If you have saved other fruits and vegetables that are still fresh but not likely to be used in the next couple of days, go ahead and add a cup or two. Don't worry so much about precision—you never have to make the same stock twice because you may not be stocking the same ingredients in the fridge. The resulting stock will be rich with flavor, vitamins, and minerals, and can be used to moisten dry food or in any of the cookie recipes. "This recipe not only makes a great addition to the dog bowl, it can be used in the cookie recipe (below) or in your own risotto. No onions needed to flavor this stock," Woodford says.

10 cups water
Bones from 1 chicken carcass, all skin removed (see Note)
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped
1 cup packed fresh spinach
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1. Bring the water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat.

2. Add the chicken bones, carrots, celery, apple, spinach, rosemary, basil, and garlic powder and bring to a boil. Skim any foam from the top of the water with a spoon.

3. Decrease the heat to low and simmer with the lid on for 40 minutes.

4. Strain the stock and discard the bones and vegetables.

The stock can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months.

Note: To create a richer-tasting broth that you can use in your own meals as well, first preheat the oven to 400°F and then roast the chicken bones for 15 to 20 minutes, until they turn a rich golden brown. Proceed as directed.

Yield: about 9 cups

Allowance Per Day:
10-pound dog: ¼ cup
20-pound dog: 1/3 cup
40-pound dog: ½ cup
60-pound dog: 2/3 cup
80-pound dog: 1 cup

Fresh Kiss Cookies

Our dogs love us, so they're going to try and kiss us, no matter how much we protest. Get those kisses early, before your dog starts to drool. And make these cookies, which not only will make those kisses more tolerable, but they'll also increase your pet's desire to say thank you. Plus, this recipe will help you use up extra parsley and mint that's left over from your human food.

1 cup beef, chicken, or fish stock
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 cup finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for rolling out

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly flour a baking sheet.

2. Heat the stock for about 2 minutes, or until boiling, in the microwave.

3. Combine the parsley, mint, canola oil in a large bowl then stir in stock.

4. Stir the flour into the herb mixture until blended.

5. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes, or until smooth. Knead briefly to gather the dough into a ball and transfer directly to the baking sheet. Flatten the ball and shape into a square.

6. Dust the top of the dough with additional flour and roll into a 10-inch square. Then cut with a pizza cutter into 1-inch squares.

7. Bake for 25 minutes for a soft cookie, or up to 45 minutes for a crunchy cookie.

8. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet before breaking them apart at the cut lines.

Yield: 100 cookies

Allowance Per Day:
10-pound dog: 2 cookies
20-pound dog: 4 cookies
40-pound dog: 6 cookies
60-pound dog: 8 cookies
80-pound dog: 10 cookies

Mutt Loaf

This dinner loaf is free of grain and packed with nutrient-dense veggies. Take off your rings, though, because the best way to mix any good meat loaf is with your hands. Like a friendly mutt, this loaf is a blend of different things. In this case, it's healthy, tasty ingredients that are easy to prepare.

3 medium russet potatoes, cleaned of eyes and green spots and grated
2 medium carrots, grated
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained*
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1¼ pounds ground beef (85 percent lean)

*(Rodale.com recommends Eden Organics—the can is BPA free.)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the potatoes and carrots in a large mixing bowl.

3. In a food processor, combine the kidney beans, eggs, rosemary, and garlic powder. Process with six to eight pulses, until the kidney beans are well chopped.

4. Combine the egg and bean mixture with the potatoes and carrots.

5. Add the beef and mix thoroughly to combine. Divide the mixture evenly between two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until the loaves reach 155°F when tested in the center with a meat thermometer.

6. Remove from the heat and allow the meat loaves to cool.

Yield: 11 cups; 330 calories per cup

Daily Portion:
Divide into two meals, or serve one-half the daily portion per day with one-half the normal amount of dry food.
10-pound dog: 2/3 to 1 cup
20-pound dog: 1¼ to 1 2/3 cups
40-pound dog: 2 1/3 to 3 cups
60-pound dog: 3¼ to 4 cups
80-pound dog: 4 to 5 cups

Sweet Potato Fries for Sharing

Here's a healthy treat that you and your dog can both enjoy! Even dogs that aren't so sure about vegetables will love this treat. Finish with a little salt and pepper on your portion, to taste. This recipe also works well with yams, parsnips, and turnips.

1 medium sweet potato
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon dried oregano

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Peel the sweet potato and cut into strips ¼ inch square by 4 inches long.

3. Combine the sweet potatoes, olive oil, and oregano on a baking sheet and toss until the potatoes are well coated.

4. Spread out evenly on the baking sheet, positioning the fries so they are parallel. (This will pay off when you need to flip them.) Bake for 15 minutes.

5. Flip the fries and bake for another 15 minutes.

6. Allow the fries to cool before serving (but grab your share and sprinkle with a little coarse salt while they are hot).

Yield: 2 cups

Allowance Per Day:
10-pound dog: 1 fry
20-pound dog: 2 fries
40-pound dog: 4 fries
60-pound dog: 6 fries
80-pound dog: 8 fries

Tuna Sandwich Leftovers

The beauty of this dog snack is that you're using leftovers you'd probably toss out otherwise—an inexpensive way to include a little something extra in your dog's food dish. When you're making a tuna fish sandwich, what's the first thing you do? Drain off the water and pour it down the sink. Next, you grab two pieces of bread, being careful to avoid the heel of the loaf. Put these two things you weren't even going to use together and you have a nice little pick-me-up for your pooch.

1 slice whole-grain bread
1 (6-ounce) can tuna, packed in water

1. Place the bread in a small bowl.

2. Drain the tuna water over the bread and let sit for 3 minutes to allow all the liquid to be absorbed.

3. Add 1 tablespoon of the tuna, blend with a fork, and serve.

Yield: 1 slice; store extra in the refrigerator for up to 3 days

Allowance Per Day:
10-pound dog: 1/3 slice
20-pound dog: ½ slice
40-pound dog: 2/3 slice
60-pound dog: ¾ slice
80-pound dog: 1 slice

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