There’s an uncomfortable truth in the raw feeding community: as much as we may love what a raw diet does for our pets, it is more work than cracking open a can or pouring kibble in a bowl. And when you start learning about the multitude of supplements on the market and the possibilities of whole food nutrition, it’s exciting at first—and then it can be overwhelming. But we’re here to remind you that with a little bit of planning, you can meal prep for your pet and make giving them a healthy, varied diet less time-consuming and potentially less expensive!
Building a Menu with Variety
One of the biggest benefits of a raw diet is the option for variety. When we feed our pets a variety of nutrients from different sources, we introduce new and beneficial bacteria to their microbiome, which allows them to process nutrients more efficiently and boosts their protection against infections and parasites.
The basic method for building a healthy, well-rounded diet is to use the 5 x 5 method: five different proteins with a variety of organs from those five animals throughout the week. And while we know that doesn’t sound like simplifying your pet’s diet, we promise it’s possible—and easy!—to mix up their meals without taking up an inordinate amount of time.
Stage 1: Using Only Pre-Made Raw
Starting your pet off on good, quality raw is usually easiest when you use pre-made, commercial food, balancing their diet by rotating through different proteins and meals with ground bone. This will be a bit costlier than making the food yourself, but it’ll cut down on the amount of time you need to prepare their meals—not to mention all the fridge and freezer space you’d need to store all your ingredients! Lastly, it can bring some raw feeders—particularly those new to raw—some peace of mind, knowing the individual recipes are typically balanced with the correct nutrients for your dog or cat, especially when served in a rotation.
For dogs, our Everyday Raw line is the easiest to use; its multiple-protein formulas ensure your dog is getting a wide variety of nutrients in the convenience of a single package, and the Everyday Raw Variety Pack means you can get three varieties of these blends in one box! A well-rounded week of using Everyday Raw (ER) for a medium-sized (~50 lb) dog might look like this:
Now, this is assuming your dog doesn't have any allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances. If, for example, your dog can't eat chicken, you'll need to cut out the Everyday Raw Farmhouse Fare and replace it with something else. To keep a balance of poultry (or white meat), fish, and red meats, you might want to consider substituting Farmhouse Fare with Foundations Raw Turkey.
For cats, our Foundations Raw (FR) is the perfect place to start. Considering cats can be a little more particular in their tastes, Foundations sticks to a single protein so you can customize your menu to their preferences. Here's a sample 1-week menu for an 11 lb cat who eats 1/4 lb of raw food a day:
Similar to dogs, take this meal plan with a grain of salt—if you’re still learning your cat’s likes and dislikes, be prepared to switch it up while still aiming for a balance of at least 5 different proteins. If you’d like to add in more poultry and white meat options, we recommend 3P Basic Instinct’s Rabbit, as well.
This is the best way to get used to meal prepping: start by organizing your freezer week by week so you’re not constantly digging in the depths of the frozen vegetables for that one specific protein. You can carry on this way, or if you feel like getting adventurous, start combining more whole foods into your pet’s meals with stage 2!
Stage 2: Premade Raw with Toppers
So you’ve gotten into a routine with raw, and now you’re looking to add a little extra to your pet’s meals. You’re still be relying primarily on premade raw meals, but now you can start getting creative, adding other food items to their dish and trimming down their raw meat portions.
Start your week by doing a fridge inventory—some of these items you might already have or purchase on a regular basis, and some may require a visit to your local pet store.
With these extra items on hand, the next week’s menu for a 50 lb dog might look like this:
Remember that when you add toppers, you need to reduce the amount of raw correspondingly. While we don’t think your dog would mind if they had a little extra in their bowl, that little extra here and there can add up over time and contribute to more health complications down the road.
This meal plan also works for cats; simply use a similar protein rotation pattern to the cat example in stage 1 and alter your raw to topper proportions accordingly. Err on the side of including more raw for cats, and be prepared for them to turn up their nose at some ingredients, like broccoli and other vegetables.
Stage 3: Partial DIY
If you’re having fun experimenting, there are ways to diversify your pet’s meals even more while still being able to prep some extra components ahead of time. This is essentially a more extended version of premade raw with toppers, but now instead of adding single, simple ingredients, we’ll be making super-food mixes that, when combined, can replace an occasional raw meal!
In our free ebook, Creating a High-Quality Diet for Your Pet’s High-Quality Life, we’ve included three whole-food recipes you can make ahead of time, combine, or add straight into your pet’s dish—as well as some of our favourite healthy frozen treat recipes, and more!
Here’s the first recipe, which is itself an ingredient in the remaining two recipes, the Homemade Blend and the DIY Blend.
Using this recipe and combining it with the other two recipes in our ebook could make one week of your pet’s monthly meals look like this:
By knowing what meals your pet typically eats, you can mix up a few of these blends to have ready for the whole week—while still keeping both your raw expenses and your time commitments low.
While cats can benefit from a small portion of the veggie medley in their meals, don’t rely on it too much. Unfortunately, our feline friends don’t digest vegetables and carbohydrates efficiently, and since they are obligate carnivores, they require that extra protein from meat sources. As helpful as they may be to our dogs, too many veggies or other extras in your cat’s meal can come at the expense of proper nutrition.
Mixing It All Together
Meal prepping is meant to make your life easier: to reduce the amount you have to think about what you’re going to feed your pet tonight, along with the actual amount of time it takes you to prepare it. But there’s a catch: the first few times you do a batch of meal prepping, it’ll seem like it takes more time than it’s worth compared to just tossing whatever package you pulled out of the freezer first.
But once you get into the rhythm of shopping for pet-specific vegetables at the grocery store, of mixing and storing homemade blends and frozen treats, you’ll find that the whole process of giving your pet a balanced, healthy diet becomes easier and easier—and you might see some gradual changes in your bank account, too!
Please keep in mind that these tips are intended for healthy pets already on a raw diet; if your pet has any preexisting conditions, you should consult with your veterinarian before changing their diet.