Fresh Food Feeding On A Budget
Let's address the Elephant in the room straight up! Yes, feeding a healthy fresh food diet is more expensive than a highly processed mostly vegetarian kibble - but that doesn't mean it's expensive.
If a bag of kibble costs you $120 and it lasts you a month, you're feeding your dog for $3.81 per day. If you're buying a bag of kibble for $60 and it lasts you a month, you're feeding your dog for $1.93 per day - Could you feed yourself a healthy diet for that much per day? No, so let's be realistic about what it actually costs to feed a healthy diet.
There are lot's of ways to make fresh food feeding fit your budget whatever your budget is! We asked our fresh food community to share their tips and tricks, so let's get into it!
Hybrid Feeding is a great entry point into fresh food feeding especially for those on a limited budget. You can simply remove some kibble and add in fresh food or limited processed food, that might be your left over cooked veggies from your dinner, a tin of sardines you got on special, an egg etc.
Vegetable Scraps - Put all your dog safe vegetable scraps for the week in a container in the fridge, then once a week, cook them up, blend/mash them and then you can easily mix them in with your dogs meal regardless of if you feed kibble or fresh food. If you end up with more than you'll use within a few days, pop them in ice cube moulds and freeze them for future use.
Fruit & Veg Shops' Scrap Bin - Go and speak with your local fruit & veggie shop manager and let them know you're looking for scraps for animals and ask if you can pop in every now and then and have a hunt through the scraps bin. Make sure you tell them it's for animals as it's a health and safety issue if they think humans are going to be consuming the scraps.
Fish Shop Offcuts - Go and speak with your local fish shop manager and let them know you're looking for scraps for your dogs and ask if they can save you some scraps. Fish shops often have fish frames/heads for really cheap and these are a great meal on their own once a week.
Wholesale & Bulk - Buying Wholesale or in bulk is a great way to save money! You don't have to shell out the money all by yourself, ask other people to go in on a purchase with you. Some Cities even having raw feeding buying co-ops such as in the Gold Coast.
Meat Markdowns - Knowing what time your local supermarket marks down their meats about to hit their best before date is a valuable piece of knowledge!
These days, we have access to a lot of super healthy plant matter that we can include in our dogs diet in appropriate amounts. Whilst some pet parents actively try and mimic a Wolves diet, we have access to so many plants that Wolves didn't have access to but that doesn't mean they aren't appropriate and health giving. We feed a dog a fresh food diet, not because we're trying to mimic a wolves diet (which is impossible) but because we know fresh whole foods is what their bodies were made to run best on vs highly processed commercial foods.
Some people believe that Wolves obtained plant matter not from their environment but in the stomachs of their prey, whilst this is party true for small prey animals such as rabbits, it is not true for larger animals. Wolves as a broad generalisation do not actively seek out the stomach contents of their prey, you can learn more about that here
Our dogs ancestors are thought to have pretty awesome gut health because they were eating raw food, consuming good bacteria and digestive enzymes from their food, however today's modern dog by large has very poor gut health due to environmental toxins, poor diets, stress and the likes - when we couple this with their lack of the digestive enzyme to break down carbohydrates we can see that we need to step in to help them breakdown carbohydrates in a more effective manner.
In order to make plant matter more bio-available, we need to process it in one or more of the following ways:
Freeze & then defrost
Cook whether than be boil, steam, bake etc.
Whilst freezing and then defrosting does break down cell walls, I would recommend you pair this with another method for better bio-availability.
For dogs with sensitive / not very functional digestive systems, cooking and then blending will be the best option for the greatest bio-availability.
Contrary to popular belief, cooking does not deplete plant matter of all nutrients, cooking simply changes the nutritional profile, making some nutrients reduce and making some increase. Different modes of cooking brings about different results - you may like to rotate through different methods for a well rounded approach.
🔥 Some plants are better off cooked and this might be because they are high in starch such as Sweet Potato and Pumpkin or they may be high in Oxalates such as Spinach OR Mushrooms who have super tough cell walls as well as harmful pathogens that are all sorted out by cooking.
The problem with Oxalates (oxalic acid) is that it binds with calcium and other minerals like magnesium and iron in order to be excreted from the body, this means that a diet high in oxalates could be depleting your dogs body of nutrients and in more prone creatures can lead to kidney stones especially in beings with higher salt contents in their diets.
Most canine diets have below 25% plant matter and in feeding programs like the one we promote here we recommend people rotate through plant options so they're not overdoing any one thing and loading up on things like oxalates.
You can also add calcium rich foods in the meal when you're feeding oxalates to help the process and this can include foods like yoghurt, kefir, raw goats milk and the likes.
Here's a list of plants that you'll want to consider cooking vs giving raw for the above mentioned reasons:
𝗛𝗶𝗴𝗵 𝗶𝗻 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗿𝗰𝗵
👉 Squash / Pumpkin
👉 Corn (will also need to be blended)
👉 Potato / Sweet Potato
𝗛𝗶𝗴𝗵 𝗶𝗻 𝗢𝘅𝗮𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲𝘀
👉 Sweet Potatoes
👉 Swiss Chard / Silverbeet
👉 Kale - although not as high in oxalates as people think
Facebook Community pages - Join your community page on Facebook, members often talk about local specials and deals and you can also put the word out that if anyone is doing a freezer clean out, your dogs would be thankful for anything that they're goin to throw out. You can also ask if anyone has chooks and have excess eggs that you can buy cheaper than the store, same goes for those who grow their own veggies.
Grow your own - Growing your own veggies is a great way to save money but also not have to deal with pesticides etc. that supermarket veggies get exposed to.
Buy a freezer - Buying a freezer will allow you to buy in bulk. You don't need to buy a new freezer, check Facebook marketplace and Gumtree for some great bargains.
Grow your own - Hens and Quail can provide you eggs and meat if you know someone how can cull and butcher for you.
Roadtrip - Great deals may be a car ride away even with petrol money you could be saving great amounts of money by looking outside of your local area.
Make friends with your Butcher - Non-fatty off cuts, meats that about to be chucked are all things you can talk to your butcher about. Freezing meats just about to not be at their best is a great option for this situation.
Chicken Carcass Mince - Mince made from Chicken Carcass is the cheapest of all meats, you can buy it for $2.99 per kilo or $1.99 per kilo in bulk. Whilst you don't want to only feed this, you could use it as your base and rotate through other proteins on-top of it.
Some dogs are reactive to factory farmed chicken so if your dogs skin or general health doesn't do well on this product, you'll need to ditch it.
Chicken is also high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 so you don't want to constantly feed it but when you do, you can balance the fats by feeding anti-inflammatory omega-3 foods that suit chicken such as freshly ground flaxseed and chia seed, soaked chia seed and fresh or canned sardines.
Left over bones - Take your left over bones that you'd normally chuck in the bin and make bone broth.
Local Farms - Check out your local farms, many of them have fruit, veggies, eggs and meat for great prices.
Pet Grade - This is a type of meat that is much cheaper. Pet minces are typically produced by pet only abattoirs, many of these abattoirs supply they Greyhound racing industry as the kennels have many dogs and they go through a lot of meat.
Generally speaking, the hygiene and preparation is far removed from what you would expect in human processing but there are some that are pretty high level.
The type of animals that can end up in these places can be sick & dying animals and the processing of animals that died on the farm - you can ask your local abattoirs if they use these animals in their mixes.
If purchasing horse meat from pet abattoirs, make sure they have a process in place that means the horse is not processed within a certain period of time that performance drugs and medications could still be in their system, especially horses from the racing industry.
To find these abattoirs, a quick Google or asking in a local raw feeding group will often get you some answers but if you get stuck, contact some Greyhound racing kennels and ask where they get their meat.
Factory outlets - These are excellent locations for bulk buying! In Australia, chicken brands such as Ingham's have direct to the public factory outlets. Google "Meat factory outlet + your city" and ask in your Facebook local community groups.
Work it out - Work out exactly what you need for your next batch so you don't over spend.
Fillers - Whilst in the perfect world, we wouldn't be using cheap fillers as kibble do but sometimes we're under financial strain, you can learn more about how to do this and access recipes with fillers here.