I love my pets, and I love my work as a freelancer – especially because I don’t ever have to leave them and go punch a time clock! But that doesn’t leave a ton of money in the way of healthy choices for us to eat. Sometimes it takes sacrifice to get where you want to be, and although I do believe that one day, my writing and freelancing will bring in ample money, the day is not today.
If you’re like me, your pets are your children. I have a larger than usual furry and feathery family as it is, so I’ve found a lot of creative ways to provide for my ‘flock’ frugally, and really stretch our resources.
So today, I want to share some of the top things that I’ve been doing to keep everyone’s belly full of wholesome, nourishing food, without going broke.
As a freelancer, I have the luxury (sometimes curse) or being my own time-manager; I get to dictate when and how I do my job. This is awesome in so many ways. One way that freelancing from home is awesome, is that between or during dog walks, litter scooping, meal prep, online work, and craft time, I can always pop open a money-making app and add to my bottom line for the month. Check some of my favorite tried-and-true ones in my blog posts…
I like to budget on a monthly basis, because having a bigger family means more planning and farther ahead.
For us, this means always having what I call the ‘base meal food’, and then bargain hunting for all of the add-ons throughout the month.
For example, here’s my monthly staple list that I KNOW I need to make our meals.
–Dry Manufactured Dog and Cat Food
We use Purina Beneful. I don’t eat this, however I have tasted it to know what I am giving my precious babies.
The price point is around the middle ground of the spectrum, and the ingredients and added vitamins and nutritional bonuses in the recipe help maintain a steady base to build meals on.
For my four dogs, we use roughly 40 pounds a month of dry dog food.The pair of cats go through around 10 pounds a month. For frugality sake. I highly recommended that you learn to convert dollars to ounces. Most of the time, bulk is the way to go when you know how much you’ll use, but larger known brands often run sales and distribute coupons that can actually make the smallest bags the better deal. Using a tracking sheet for that is very helpful – you can download mine for FREE here.
-Dry Brown Rice
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t eat whole grain brown rice in some form.
First off, it’s cheap, and leaves you with a fullness that outlasts other empty-calorie, filler starch foods like potatos and bread. There’s thousands of ways to spruce it up ranging from the simple seasoning changes, to cooking in broth from other food, to full blown rice based recipes.
I’m terrible at raw cooking rice for some reason. I always seem to burn it, or leave in too much liquid. I like to buy instant brown rice, but I’m sure that the kind you cook yourself could save some money, and possibly be more nutritious, so anyone who knows about that, please comment below!
Brown rice is not only safe and good for the dogs and cats, but the bird doesn’t mind it either.
– Frozen Green Veggies
Other than the vegetables I grow in my container gardens, there always seems to be a need for more veggies. I try to make vegetables the star of my own meals, and incorporate them into most of the animals. Frozen peas and frozen broccoli are always at the top of the monthly staples list, as they are fresher and more nutritious than canned versions.
Carrots, stemless green beans, and kernel corn are also great frozen veggies to keep in stock, but I usually buy these in smaller quantity, and based on sales and seasons.
Speaking of seasons, I have to mention that buying from local farms and produce markets is always my preferred source for anything, but the truth is that sometimes the budget dictates going to bulk stores, like Sam’s club, who offer the best bang for the few bucks I have to spend.
Trading with local farms is always something to keep in mind though! I compost my own rich soil and sometimes trade it for fresh eggs to the lady down the street!
Eggs are another monthly must. Free range, local, grain fed, etc is of course best, but sometimes bulk happens too. Aside of their notorious vitamins and protein punch in any form, eggs can be a versatile game changer when creating variety in your meals using repetitive ingredients. Cloud bread, boiled eggs, egg salad, baking, and even using the shells are just some of the things I love. Drying and crushing egg shells is a great way to follow the Waste-not, Want-not rule of living that governs my home. Sprinkling the shells over the bird seed adds minerals to their diet, and mixing into certain recipes can do the same for me and The Fluffies. Egg shells are also a bonus when it comes to gardening and composting.
Raw eggs over plain rice is a homeopathic treatment for upset stomach in dogs and cats.
Between me and the animals, We use around 4-5 dozen eggs a month. Boiling older eggs is better, so I mark each carton with a purchase date, or float them in water to determine which are freshest.
I just can’t wait to raise some chickens!
I grow a lot of the seeds that I feed to my birds, but with such limited space, and a harvest only once a year I just end up buying a lot too. Bulk stores and online bulk is the best way that I’ve found to get deals on birdseed. Also, check out wild feed- a lot have the same stuff as the double to triple priced brand names. Also, throw a couple reclaimed bags of silica gel in the airtight storage container to whisk away moisture and prevent sprouting. DO NOT feed sprouted seeds to domestic birds.
When I change out the birdseed, we don’t throw it away. I put ‘used’ bird seed shells in a bag to put in the bird and squirrel feeders outside. It helps keep them out of my garden, they scavenge the still good seeds that my little lazy beaks leave behind, and then naturally decompose in the ground below.
This is a big one for me and the dogs. I’m so thankful that I was blessed with a life that hasn’t been plagued with a nut allergy!
Peanut butter goes in a lot of my daily meals – oatmeal, protein shakes, veggie dippers… it’s s great binding agent to make bird treats, and dog treats, and a wholesome, healthy fat snack whenever I’m craving something sweet.
I’m addicted to the PB2 powdered peanut butter that I get from my Thrive subscription, because I know that there’s no extra oil or fat going into my peanut butter to keep it creamy like the store bought kind. I just mix in water to a scoop or swo, and sometimes for an extra treat, add some raw honey from the farm down the road.
Bananas turn faster than any of my other fruit, so even though I budget for those monthly, I buy them, weekly. I have a handful of ways to use very-ripe bananas, so nothing goes to waste. I make frozen banana cream, banana bread, and use the peels in the garden and compost.
Apples are another versatile member of my necessity family. The dogs love them, the cats will eat them occasionally when made into apple sauce, and the birds dig them fresh and dehydrated. Note- if you don’t have a dehydrator, I recommend you get one, or if you have the patience, at least learn to do it in the oven.
Grapefruit has replaced lemons in almost every aspect of my life. Grapefruit-aid, a wedge of grapefruit squeezed into my tea, raw as a super diet friendly snack (can you say helloooo antioxidants), and the peels smell amazing boiled with a little Cinnamon for potpourri. When soaked in vinegar, grape fruits also make a killer all purpose cleaner.
-Fresh spinach and Other Greens
As always, I grow what I can, and spinach is no exception. When I don’t have my own fresh grown, I buy it from the grocery stores. This is another weekly purchase for the sake of freshness, although, I budget for it monthly. About two 16 ounce bags a week is what I use.
Steel Cut oats are the longest burning oats to keep you full the longest.I like to cook these a week ahead of time and refrigerate, then season and add fresh fruit daily to spruce it up.
Green tea is a must. Studying up on green tea after a girlfriend insisted it be part of my meal plan years back, was the greatest thing I could do. Understanding not only how tea is made, but how to properly brew it, provides you with the foundation to enjoy the most nutritious and wholesome forms. The natural caffeine boost is great for not only energy, but for metabolism, as well as it being a diuretic that combats bloat.
Green tea is great hot or cold, and can be flavored a number of different ways for variety. Saving the tea bags for other purposes and reuse is also a big way to strategically save on spending. It’s dirt cheap at a lot of places, but when I can, I like to get some nice quality loose leaves for better brewing.
Other teas are great for a variety of purposes. Chamomile or lavender for meditating and bedtime relation, chai for a spicy special alternative to coffee, and black tea not just to drink, but for self tanner! The list of flavor combinations is endless, so I try to stick to buying one flavor a month and adding it to my stock pile of lesser used teas.
Important note: in NO form should you ever allow your pets to consume tea. Caffeine ingestion in animals can be deadly, as well as the array of allergic reactions that could be triggered by the different kinds.
-Tuna and Fish
I love going fishing, and I clean and cook all that I catch. Boiling the bones and heads is a common practice that makes a great stock and addition to dog broth. Scales and other leftover body parts get ground and canned as cat food. I buy tuna in water only, and frozen, wild caught salmon. The water and any fat left from those fish gets saved for broth and cat food as well.
-Other Monthly Purchases
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Almonds, Garlic and other spices, and a vinegar are other things that I use regularly to enhance my diet and cooking.
How We Eat
Having a group of misfits makes feeding a little tricky. I can’t open feed on dry food because Queen Fluffiness Bitch herself will guard it and no one else will eat. I also don’t recommend open feeding even if you have only one pet, because it makes it harder to monitor how much and how often your baby eats, which can be especially important in the case of illness diagnosis.
While each dog and cat gets their own portioned meal, we all eat on the same schedule as often as we can.
Breakfast – dry food with broth. The broth is from boiling scraps and bones from friends or family – as I am a pescetarian. Any waste food from cooking however, excluding a few exceptions that aren’t safe for pet consumption, get cut down to the max and ground in the food processor to go into the broth. I feel that warm broth on that crappy tasting cardboard feed makes it a happier and more exciting experience for their breakfast. A couple days a week, when I scramble myself eggs for breakfast, I throw some in for them too and add it to their dish with the broth-dry food mixture.
Snacks – dried fruit or veggies, or oatmeal peanut butter treats.
I feel that if eating several smaller meals is best for me, it must be best for them too. So we eat meal-snack-meal-snack-meal.
Lunch – at lunchtime, I usually eat a salad of some sort, and give the dogs a 3rd or so serving of dry food without broth so that if they are genuine hungry they will eat it, and if not, I can store it back away.
Snack – this is when I usually have my power shake and the critters get some a handful store bought treats or homemade peanut butter oat balls.
Dinner – we all eat rice. I cook rice twice a week. I usually feed the dogs from the older stock as they don’t seem to mind, and save the softer fresher stuff for myself and the picky kitties. I also like to give them a small serving of veggies each. The cats will only eat their and veggies rice, when I mix it with fish broth and blender it.
When I have extra meal-prep time, I make Pup Cakes – pan fried leftover patties for easy serving dog dinners.
In conclusion, mindfulness, planning, and creativity are key when making food and money go as far as possible. I really enjoy challenging myself and making the resources go as far as possible. For dry food, I use this amazing delivery service called Thrive, that gives members more than half-off of the health food stores retail markups, and ships orders over $49 free. I’d be lost without their service, and I try to order once a month and get everything I need, so that I never have to pay for shipping.
Are you struggling to afford to stay at home with your pets or kids? What changes did you make to make being a stay at home mom possible? Do you have any questions about how I’m able to do it? I want to help everyone stay at home with their babies if that’s what they’re being pulled to do. Reach out to me in the comments and let’s get you on the right track!
What do you do to stretch your budget and resources? What kinds of foods do you share with your pets? Comment Below!