You want to know a secret? We save money making our own homemade dog treats. We’re learning to live more thriftily as soon we’ll leave city life for full time cozy cabin living, where we’ll grow our own food. Thanks to 1960’s and 70’s we Americans became fascinated with fast food and now many of us take for granted that dog treats are prepackaged and purchased from a grocery store. But they don’t need to be. Particularly when you want to save money and be in charge of your dog’s health. Seriously, who doesn’t what those two things?
How To Save Money Making Homemade Dog Treats
Fruits Dogs Can Eat
Veggies Dogs Can Eat
Proteins Dogs Can Eat
- Make sure the money saving, homemade treats you give your dog are foods that he or she can tolerate (we learned this the hard way), and that pit-based fruit are sliced generously (leaving some flesh on the pit).Peel skins where appropriate and par-steam some veggies (e.g. broccoli, brussels, etc.).
- Follow safe raw meat handling procedures.
- Start by feeding your dog in little amounts – not Manwich™ size meals!
- Use ingredients from the meals you prepare for yourself to make small portions versus a big bag of treats.
- Dehydrate homemade dog treats, ensure they are moisture free, and store in the fridge in airtight containers (up to a week or two).
Homemade Meat Jerky Treats
Oven: Preheat oven to 175 (or lowest setting your oven has) and once temperature is achieved, open the oven a crack throughout the entire cooking session. You are dehydrating the meat, not baking it – the moisture must escape. Dehydrator info is below.
Select the protein your dog will love. Ours dig salmon. Which is easy, we just ask the fish guy to give us a bit more and when we get home we toss the little extra in the freezer. When it’s time to make the homemade treats we simply thaw the piece (keeping it slightly frozen for easier slicing), cut into Shih Tzu-sized jerky treats and place in our dehydrator. Freezing the protein prior to treat making helps kill bacteria and makes it easier to cut. Trim away all fat – fat halts dehydration. Remember: moisture free!
- Slice partially frozen meat into long, even, thin slices (less than ¼”) – all the same size and thickness, no cheating
- Place a cooling rack on top of a lined cookie sheet (to catch moisture from the meat, and keep your oven tidy)
- Arrange the slices on the cooling rack so that they do not touch one another
- Dehydrate in oven for 2-3 hours (depends on altitude, protein selection, etc., you’ll know when they are done when they look and flex like jerky – they should not be moist, bend or feel spongy, and they should be completely dry)
- Turn every 20 minutes to ensure a good jerky
- When done, remove the jerky from the oven and allow to cool on the racks
Dehydrator: With a food dehydrator (we use an Exaclibur® with an automatic timer – use our affiliate link to check it out) you’ll want to follow the same recipe, place the strips on the dehydrator racks, and follow manufacturer directions. We set ours at 140 degrees and the jerky is done in 8 hours (but it will vary depending on thickness – just keep checking when in doubt). It’s pretty cool for our dogs to go to bed and then wake up to salmon jerky dog treats for breakfast! Easy peasy, that’s why recommend the dehydrator method.
Fruits and Veggie Treats
Now that you’ve read the protein jerky instructions, the fruit and veggie treat recipe will be easy. Same concept – as low on the oven temp as possible and leave it cracked open – your dehydrating, not baking. Dehydrator method, follow the manufacturer’s directions (will vary depending on ingredient). Key here is that when you slice the fruits or veggies, make sure they are the same length and width. Tip: sweet potatoes should be done when they are just a bit chewy, not crunchy. Your dog won’t dig crunchy as it will be too hard and could hurt him.
- Wash and dry your selected item(s)
- Slice into thin pieces, ½” thickness is good with the exception of those darned sweet taters (we suggest ¼”)
- Place a parchment paper on a cookie sheet, don’t use oil, and place the fruit and veggies apart so that they don’t touch (don’t want any cuddling fruit and veggies now do we!?!)
- Move the oven rack up so that it’s at least 4″ away from the top
- In the oven, fruit and veggies will not take too long, check every 10-15 minutes and turn – you want them dry and firm, and be careful because ovens are a bit too hot and can burn the goodies, eye on the prize people
- Dehydrator method is much easier, just set it and forget it – we do ours over night and again, the fuzzy ones wake up to a joyous treat (and truth be told, so do we – seriously, dehydrated pineapple is good!)
You might also be interested in our healthy greens mix for dogs #DIY recipe!
Storing Your Money Saving Homemade Dog Treats
One of the benefits of making your own money saving homemade dog treats is to be in charge of what goes in your dog’s body. No junk, preservatives, fillers or byproducts with your whole food selections! And because of this you want to store your pup’s goodies in an airtight container or freezer bag in the fridge or freezer. We use some FoodSaver™ products that we’ll list below (with affiliate links that help us raise a few bucks, at no additional cost to you, for our dog mission). We really love FoodSaver and recommend them because they make things easier for us – a lot. Store in the fridge up to 10 days, and in the freezer for three months and again, up to 10 days in the freezer once opened. Tip: keep these items free of moisture, so do not store in plastic without using an air removal process because that little bit of air will create moisture.
Items We Use for Air Tight Storage
If you already have a vacuum food sealer/saver then all you need is the handheld sealer adapter thingy that goes on to it. We use a large food saver for our gardening and freezing – and we purchased a cute little handheld red one for smaller things like our dog’s treats. These little gadgets cost about the same as a few bags of dog treats, and that means the investment you make will help you save money in a short amount of time. And the treats that you make will be healthier and more tasty for your pup. These are our simple tips for how to save money making homemade dog treats – now share your tips with us!
Coming soon: step by step, food specific food dehydrator dog treat recipes – with DIY videos.
Thanks for reading, and until next time – take care and keep on lovin’ your dog!