Since we’ve lately been talking about how to live on the frugal edge, I figured this post was definitely in order. I mean, have you seen the price of dog treats lately? Crates? Toys? Add an “organic ingredients” or “custom-built” label to the item and the price-tag zooms.


And yes, pet food costs 30% more than it did three years ago. That “Rx” stuff? It’s prices have skyrocketed even faster. Everyone knows your pets are “family” now. And they all seem to want to cash! But you don’t always have to play ball. Here are some examples:


DIY Pet Treats


You don’t have to buy the expensive stuff. And you don’t even have to know how to bake to make fantastic pet nummies. In fact, if you have a good neighbor, a friendly fishmonger or a cooperative butcher, you can have pet treats ASAP for next to nothing.


Here’s how I do it: After your neighbor’s suckling pig roast, ask for the leftovers. Make a stock out of the bones (for yourself) and cut up the crispy skin into bite-sized pieces. Place on a cookie sheet atop some waxed paper and freeze. Once frozen, you can pile all the pieces into a ziploc and keep them in the freezer for up to 6 months, pulling out just a couple every day. I do this with fish skin courtesy of my fishmonger or with cheap organ meats from my butcher’s leftover selection.


NB: It’s important to freeze the bits on a tray first or else you get this unglue-able mass you’ll never tease apart in a million years without defrosting again. Alternatively, you can dehydrate the stuff in a slow oven instead of freezing but that’s more energy intensive and it still tends to mold over after a couple of weeks (even in the fridge).


DIY Pet Composting


I know it’s gross work but composting your organic leftovers along with your pets’ (yes, poop) is totally doable. Biodegradable poop bags or a simple long-handled scooper makes the process easy and keeps your yard clean, too. Here’s some info on this simple process––a project you’ll forever wonder why you put off for so long.


Litterbox waste is also compostable if you use the organic litter (like Feline Pine). Imagine what you do for the environment by saving this stuff from the landfill’s gluttonous maw. And you’ll never need to buy those expensive chemical-y fertilizers ever again.


NB: This compost is NOT recommended for your edible plants (pet waste can carry encysted parasites like toxoplasmosis that can theoretically end up inside you). It’s magic for your ornamentals, though. I keep two separate composts for this reason.


One is all chicken bedding/pet waste (I use diatomaceous earth to speed the process and keep it all very nice-smelling) ... and the other is the standard stuff for use on veggies/herbs.


DIY Pet Toys


Got some Jeans, T-shirts or tights too old and worn out to wear anymore? Old towels or rags? You can’t even give this stuff away, right? And throwing it in the garbage feels wrong, somehow. Add a pair of scissors, thirty minutes and the ability to make a tight braid and you, too, can make your own pet toys. Cut fabric into 1- or 2-inch x 18- 24-inch strips for dogs, into 1/4-inch x 8- 12-inch strips for cats. Braid three strips. Make knots at both ends. Braid three more. And three more. Braid these three braids together into a mega-braid. Keep braiding everything together (megabraids with megabraids if you want) until you reach the desired width. Easy.


DIY Pet Structures


Need crates? Coops? Goat sheds? Stanchions? Don’t buy. Build. That is, if you’re predisposed to handiness. Luckily, handiness runs in my family. (My sister has a sculpting background and master powertool prowess. The brother-in-law fells trees with aplomb. And the boyfriend has carpentry skills and equipment to die for.)


Add a couple of weekends for a coop, one for the goat shed, and a day for the stanchion. And the price for everything? About $500 for wood and screws. The labor went for the price of a few home-cooked meals (barbecue, buckets of pestoed pasta and swaths of zucchini lasagna, anyone?). 


For good measure (and because we had some additional donated wood on hand) my sister went wild and started on an elaborate tree house for my son.


Craziness and unfettered ambition runs in the family, too. ;-)




So now it’s your turn. Do you DIY with wild abandon? How do you save money on your pets' stuff?



Image: DreamBig / Shutterstock