Even though my husband and I have a two-legged baby on the way, my two dogs, Molson and Karma, have always been our babies.
As such, it’s nothing but the best for them. We’ve always been careful about what we feed them, reading food labels and avoiding anything that contained by-products or other fillers.
After that dog-food scare a few years ago, we decided to make our own dog food and discovered that it was better for our dogs. We found it was much less expensive and the dogs liked it more than canned food. We do still buy dry food (we like the family-owned Merrick brand, which is a bit costly, but worth it for the fresh, quality ingredients they use), but we’ve been mixing it with our own homemade wet food ever since.
We don't spend much on ingredients. If I stock up on things when they’re on sale, I can easily make six weeks’ worth of food for two dogs for $30 or less. We invest a Saturday morning whipping up a large batch of dog food, which we then package in reusable containers and freeze. It might sound like a lot of trouble, but believe me, it isn’t. It gives us tremendous peace of mind to know that what our dogs are eating is healthy and doesn’t contain anything that could hurt them. You can make your own dog food, too. Here’s how:
You’ll need three basic food groups: protein, grain and vegetables.
Start with your protein. We like to use chicken or lean ground beef (80/20 or better), which we buy when it goes on sale and freeze until we’re ready to make a batch. Chicken thighs often go on sale for 99 cents a pound or less!
Fill the biggest stockpot you have with your protein and cover the meat with water. Drop in a few bouillon cubes. Turn the heat on medium and simmer. How long will depend on how much meat you’re cooking, but as a general rule we usually let it simmer until most of the liquid has cooked out.
If you’re using anything with bones – like chicken thighs – allow the meat to cool, then remove the bones. Put the meat back in the pot and add a grain. We usually alternate between rice and barley. For about 10 pounds of meat, I use between three and five cups of a grain, give or take. Add water according to the grain’s cooking instructions.
Just like two-legged babies, even Fido has to eat his veggies. We like to use two or three different veggies per batch. If using fresh vegetables, add them to your pot when you add the grain so they have time to soften. If using frozen vegetables (this is okay!) mix them in after the grain is finished, since they’re probably already partially cooked.
Peas, carrots, lima beans, green beans, potatoes, lentils, beans, sweet potatoes, even apples are great to add to dog food. Avoid corn, which can cause allergies or digestive issues.
For a pretty comprehensive list of people foods not to feed your dog, see the ASPCA’s list of foods that can be toxic to canines.
After the grain and veggies have cooked, you’re done! Let your dog food cool completely. Spoon it into containers (I always save Country Crock tubs and similar containers), label and date it. Then put it in the deep freeze.
Over time you’ll discover what your dog really loves and what he pushes around with his nose like a 5-year-old hiding her broccoli in her napkin. You can use this knowledge to craft your own mixtures and recipes to cater to your pup’s taste –another great reason to make your own dog food!
If you give DIY dog food a try, let us know how it turns out! Share your experience in the comments below.