Inspired by all the cat and dog treat recipes you see everywhere these days? With a little planning and budget-wise shopping, you can home-bake nutritious treats on the cheap. The secret is making large batches, freezing extras and using cost-effective whole grains and the least expensive cuts of meat.
Shop in bulk-food stores for inexpensive, high-protein flours, such as quinoa, barley, brown rice and cornmeal. Grind your own oat flour in a blender or food processor using steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats.
Buy natural, unsalted peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower butter in bulk food stores -- note expiry dates and keep natural nut butters under refrigeration. Buy unsalted sunflower seeds and peanuts at a bulk food store. Add any leftover meat, vegetables and roasting pan drippings from your dinners to your dog and cat treats to enhance the flavor and nutritional benefit.
Grow your own herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, mint, oregano and especially catnip for cat treats. Research sources of inexpensive cuts of meat, such as farms that raise cattle, sheep, chickens or turkeys. Buy hearts, liver, turkey giblets and muscle meats in bulk and freeze the parts in individual packages. Ask your butcher which cuts of meat are the least expensive and if you can get a discount if you buy in bulk on a regular basis.
Bake large batches of treats once a month. Divide them into weekly or daily portions and freeze them in zip-top plastic bags for up to six months.
Items you will need
- Wholewheat flour
- Brown rice flour
- Quinoa flour
- Vegetable oil
- Old-fashioned rolled oats or steel-cut oats
- Natural, unsalted peanut butter
- Natural, unsalted almond butter
- Natural, unsalted sunflower butter
- Unsalted, unseasoned peanuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Canned mackerel
- Beef liver
- Chicken livers
- Chicken hearts
- Chicken backs
- Dog treats do not need to contain meat. However, cats are true carnivores and your kitty will only accept treats containing meat -- especially hearts and livers -- poultry or fish.
- Canned mackerel is an inexpensive source of omega-3 fatty acid and both cats and dogs love it.
- Beef liver is inexpensive in many areas and provides essential nutrients. Chop it in a food processor and add to treats for both dogs and cats. Always wash your food processor immediately after processing liver to avoid a messy clean-up.
- Vegetables left over from your dinner, such as sweet potatoes, zucchini, cauliflower and parsnips can be chopped or pureed and added to treat recipes.
- If you already have nutrient-rich herbs in your cupboard, such as parsley, oregano or sweet basil, add a tablespoon to treat recipes for flavor.
- Roasting pan juices, such as chicken, beef or lamb, enhance treats and add fats that are good for your dog and cat -- substitute as part of the liquid and oil portion in treat recipes.
- For dogs, make freezies with homemade chicken broth.
- Allow frozen treats to thaw for 10 to 20 minutes before serving them to your dog. Treats can last for up to six months in the freezer.
- If you have an inexpensive source for natural yogurt, combine it half and half with melted peanut butter, add vanilla extract for flavor and freeze in cupcake papers for a cool dog treat on a hot summer's day or after a walk.
- For dog treats, bake sweet potato slices in your oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two hours -- up to several hours -- for a dry, chewy consistency.
- Substitute less expensive vegetable oils for olive oil in dog and cat treat recipes.
- When introducing new treats containing ingredients you may not have used in the past, offer small pieces to your dog or cat to make sure there are no adverse reactions.
- If your dog is allergic to wheat or gluten, make treats with a combination of oat flour and brown rice flours.
- Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats; Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D. and Susan Hubble Pitcairn
- Cesars Way: Recipe Ideas for Quick and Healthy Homemade Dog Treats
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images