One sad side effect of the nation's economic struggles is the increase in pets showing up at animal shelters, turned in by families who can no longer afford their upkeep. But while most of you said  that you'd never give up your fuzzy buddy, even if you faced bankruptcy, it can sometimes feel as though our pets are eating us out of house and home. If you seem to be spending more on pet food than you are on your own  food, consider these seven tips to keep your furry friend from ingesting your monthly budget!
Buy in Bulk
Many pet stores will give you a discount for buying in bulk (some even at the wholesale price!), so stock up! And when your pet's favorite food goes on sale, it's a great time to buy as much as you can feed him before the expiration date on the bag. Of course, don't feed your pet in bulk!
Join Store Rewards Clubs
Most national chains offer rewards memberships that offer exclusive deals to members. Some, like the Petco Pals  program, give you store credit when you spend a certain amount. Or receive discounts and sale alerts through PetSmart's PetPerks  program. Don't forget to ask about rewards programs at your local pet food store, too.
Make Your Own
Preparing your own pet food at home can help you save substantially on the cost of your pet's meals. It also allows you to control the amount and quality of the ingredients and cut out animal byproducts. Just make sure you consult your vet before making any major changes to your pet's diet, and consider adding a multivitamin to your pet's daily routine to make up for the vitamins and minerals that many pet food brands incorporate into their formulas.
Shop Big-Box and Warehouse Stores
In addition to providing discounts on large quantities of pet foods, big-box and warehouse stores often sell generic brands that compete in quality with name-brand versions. Read the labels carefully to ensure that they are nutritionally on par with your pet's regular brand of food.
Sign Up For Amazon Subscribe and Save
Many dog  and cat  food brands qualify for Amazon's Subscribe and Save program, in which you can have items shipped at regular intervals to your home. Subscribers of this program save 5 percent on every shipment. Couple this with the many other ways to save  on this online shopping destination, and you can bring your pet food costs way down versus buying offline.
Newspaper inserts are a great place to look for pet food coupons, but websites can also provide a wealth of savings opportunities. In addition to coupon websites like Coupons.com  and SmartSource , pet food manufacturers often offer coupons on their websites and through social media channels like Facebook. And before you throw away that pet food bag, look inside, because sometimes the manufacturer will slip in a coupon or two!
Look For Rebates
Some pet food brands give you the chance to try new products for free or will give you cash back on your purchase of certain types of food. Read the label carefully to see if your favorite brand of food qualifies for these programs.