I have 3 main goals when I look through the ads:
*Find ingredients that I need for the meals I came up with from my inventory sheet.
*Check for staples we always have around the house that may be on sale. Things like salsa, bread, certain produce my kids love, etc.
*Look for great deals that can contribute to a meal. This might be meat at a great price, produce on sale that we will eat as a side, or other components like rice and tortillas.
I almost always "settle" for an ad item. What I mean by this is instead of eating broccoli as a side, we will have asparagus because it's on sale cheaper than the broccoli.
Don't buy an item just because it's on sale. Buy it if it's cheaper than the store brand and you actually NEED it or will USE IT for a meal.
Color code the stores as you make your list. You will be able to see which store has the best deals at a glance, then decide if it's worth going to that store.
If there are only 2-3 items in an ad that you need, will use, and is cheaper than store brand, it's not worth going to the store. I only go to the store if there is a significant amount of sale items.
If you're new to ad shopping, I suggest starting a price sheet just to start seeing what good prices are. This opened my eyes a ton to seeing what is actually a great sale price. You can read about how I did that here.
Download my Ad Shopping sheet below!