Patty, if you are really sold on the idea of raw, click on the link in my sig (about feeding raw) and go to the mailing list that is listed on that site. Post your exact post you just posted there, and I guarantee you will get a TON of help. There's also a cat-specific raw feeding list. I can find that link for you if you like, just PM me. BARF is a lot of work and expensive, but raw feeding doesn't always have to be. I don't put much effort into finding the most cost effective meats for my two, because they weigh less than 30 pounds combined, and I think it's still cheaper than feeding a lot of the commercial foods that were listed already. My dog got bad diarrhea as well as vomitted a lot, and switching her to raw has pretty much eliminated that. I also don't do any work, I buy meat, and give it to them. That's it. Honestly it's hard to believe (I know, I've been there), but if you can feed your kids, you can feed your dogs raw.
I used to be so nervous and scared and asked that mailing list above about a million questions, including: "Hold my hand and tell me what to do!" and couldn't believe the response. Now I'm one of the biggest advocates for it, though I'm sure watching my dog completely recover with no drugs or surgery helped.
Not everyone gets such drastic results.
Innova Evo is probably the next best thing though, and if that's too expensive (it came out after I started feeding raw so I'm not sure how much it is), any of the natural foods listed are good too.
As far as cost, I once worked in a pet store that sold Iams, Pedigree, etc., as well as some of the higher quality natural foods. I went through and figured out how many cups were in each bag, how much the food recommended feeding per day, and how much a bag cost. I was actually pretty surprised to find out that besides Eukanuba (which came out most expensive by far, and which I don't consider natural anyway), pretty much universally the "cheaper" foods were more expensive than the natural foods. My mom has a 100 pound dog who she feeds 3 cups of food a day, and some other foods she's fed him she's had to feed him 7 or 8 cups a day. Can you imagine the reduction in poop when she was able to get him down to 3 cups?
So definitely take into account the feeding recommendations. They can't lie about those, one company is in the process of being sued for doing that.
Here's my biggest problem with pet foods (besides the fact that it's processed and I've tried to cut processed foods out for myself too
) : They are a lot of a guessing game. People keep finding things that pet foods are missing that raw food has had all along and will always have. Taurine is the most striking example. That was caught very quickly when cats being fed commercial foods started going blind and/or dying though. The latest one is DHA (omega 3), which some natural foods have had for a while now, and a lot of the others are just catching up on. Plus, watching my cat and dog eat makes me smile now, they both enjoy it so much.
(My cat didn't take to the raw right away either, now it's all he'll eat.)