This post may contain affiliate links.
One question that comes up a lot in my group is “how does everyone afford to feed raw?” I've been a member of a local raw food co-op for a few years and sometimes forget how expensive raw feeding can be when you're brand new. The only source I knew about was the grocery store, and with four dogs with a chicken intolerance, that wasn't an affordable source.
So now what?
1 – DIY Raw Instead of Premade
When I started feeding a raw diet, I transitioned my dogs to Darwin's Pet Food. This was perfect because I was feeding a balanced diet, I had time to figure out what I needed to feed my dogs, where I would get it, and secure additional freezer space. But once we became a four dog home, having premade raw delivered to my door wasn't doable anymore.
While DIY raw feeding required a lot of homework as I learned more about dog nutrition, it has been worth the effort. DIY raw feeding is…
- less expensive than premade raw (cut my budget in half).
- allows me to control all the ingredients in my dogs' diet.
- fun to prepare because the longer I do it, the better I get.
2 – Order in Bulk
A lot of places will cut you a deal if you order in bulk. Check with your grocery store's meat manager, your local butcher, contact local restaurant suppliers, and contact your local pet stores. Not everyone will offer you a discount, but you won't know until you ask.
Don't expect a big break unless you're ordering hundreds and hundreds of pounds of food; like through a raw food co-op. Whether you're shopping with friends or for yourself, you may get 5-10% off at most – but something is better than nothing, and if you prove to be a reliable, steady customer, they may give you better deals.
Of course, if you order in bulk, you'll need a dedicated freezer. I purchased mine from a place that recycles appliances. I also got a great deal at Costco on a chest freezer – FYI, chest freezers blow because once it's full, it's hard to see what's in it. I swapped it out for a second stand up freezer this summer.
3 – Supplement with Whole Foods
Supplements also drain the bank account because they're expensive. Earlier this year, I figured out that I could replace most of the supplements I purchased with whole foods.
- Instead of a multi-vitamin powder, feed raw eggs.
- Instead of a probiotic powder, feed goat's milk, kefir, and fermented foods.
- Instead of a supplement for thyroid health, feed kelp.
- Instead of a supplement for zinc or manganese, feed oysters (canned, boiled in water).
- Instead of fish oil, feed raw fish (or canned sardines, in water, no salt added).
- Instead of a joint supplement, feed beef trachea, duck feet, fermented fish stock, or green lipped mussel powder.
The list goes on and on. In some cases, a supplement makes more sense while in other cases a whole food is the best option for my dogs and my budget.
4 – Connect with Local Farms and Hunters
I haven't done this yet, but I know plenty of raw feeders who have made connections with local farms and hunters. The reason I haven't taken this step is that you get what you ask for and I don't have the freezer space for the amount of meat you can get from a hunter.
If you choose to go this route, especially sourcing from hunters, make sure that it's okay to buy from them in your state. It's fine in Washington State (I called the Department of Agriculture to ask), however, in some states it's illegal for hunters to sell their kill. And you'll also need to freeze the meat for a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
This is an excellent way to get a lot of variety. I might have a source for elk, venison, and moose next year!
5 – Post Ads for Freezer Dumps
My stepson left for college this past weekend. I spent three weeks cleaning up his room, and I was stunned by how much went into the trash. I get it because whenever I've moved in the past, I reach a point where I give up, and everything is either given away or thrown away. Well, tons of people feel the same when cleaning out the freezer. I have a friend who posts advertisements on Craigslist with great success.
Example of a Craigslist Advertisement
In search of RAW, FROZEN MEAT that you'd like to clear out of your freezer. The food MUST be frozen and cannot be going bad. However, it can be old, freezer burned, refrozen – as long as it's frozen.
Food that I'm looking for:
- Raw and unseasoned pork, rabbit, quail, duck, venison, elk, moose (whole or ground is okay).
Food that I cannot take:
- Sausage, seasoned meat, cooked meat, or anything my dogs cannot eat (chicken, turkey, guinea hen, and pheasant).
I am located in Marysville, Washington, and I'm happy to travel to King, Snohomish, and Skagit Counties for my dogs.