This is a brief guide to switching cooking ingredients in MoP. This is relevant to anyone working the auction house, since like ore shuffles, the value of cooking ingredients are now inter-related in a way that may not at first be apparent. For further context, I've also written a guide that covers the whole of MoP Cooking (with a slight fishing bias).
The Ironpaw Shuffle has pre-requsites to conduct yourself:
- Level 85 with MoP. Everyone relevant to this is in Halfhill Market, in the Valley of the Four Winds, and everything is based on level-restricted quests and items.
- Complete the introductory quests to all 6 cooking Ways (specialisations), which notably include delivering a few ingredients (details). These require 525 cooking.
- Those unlock Nam Ironpaw's Preserving Freshness quest, which then becomes the repeatable quest, Replenishing the Pantry.
How Replenishing the Pantry works:
- Take 1 stack of any one Pandarian cooking ingredient (exceptions below) and combine it with an Empty Container for that ingredient to make a bundle of groceries. Empty Containers are sold by Merchant Cheng for 1g 50s.
- Complete Replenishing the Pantry with the groceries, gaining 1 Ironpaw Token per bundle of groceries (1 token per stack).
- Use the Ironpaw Token to buy a Sack containing 5 (or 25 for vegetables) of any cooking ingredient (sold by Nam Ironpaw).
Exceptions: Golden Carp (Pandaria's trash fish) are bundled in 60s, not 20s like other fish/meat. Vegetables stack in 100s, not 20s. Only Pandaria-level (Zen Master) cooking ingredients can be combined into groceries, not ingredients sold by Sugshin Ironpaw (for 1-525 leveling).
So, aside from the exceptions, any 20 meat/fish or 100 vegetables can be converted into any 5 meat/fish or 25 vegetables, at the cost of 1g 50s and some mouse clicks. Note that "some mouse clicks" can become quite time-consuming/wrist-breaking if you plan to do this with hundreds of stacks.
It follows that if, ( price of stack of one ingredient + 1g 50s ) < ( price of stack of another ingredient / 4 ), then you should consider buying the first and converting it into the second.
Further, if you expect prices to switch over time, you can hedge into Ironpaw Tokens: Complete steps 1 and 2, but simply hold Ironpaw Tokens until you are ready to trade them in for Sacks. Clearly a very efficient use of inventory, since currency occupies no slots.
Afterthought: I should probably add that Ironpaw Tokens can also be used to buy other things, including 3 Token-only (but trade-able) ingredients: 100 Year Soy Sauce, Black Pepper and Rice Flour, for 1 Token each, which are used in all top-tier cooked food. So price considerations are slightly more complex, since they also need to factor in the auction house price of those 3 ingredients.
And finally there is one other repeatable source of Ironpaw Tokens - Spirit of Harmony vendors. But I can't foresee any situation in which it will be easier to gain 1 Spirit of Harmony (to buy 1 Ironpaw Token), than to gather ingredients for Replenishing the Pantry. The only case is (Ranch) farming, where the balance is 10x vegetable crops (5-8 vegetables each) vs 10x Songbell (1 Mote each), but that's only because Songbells are currently unbalanced in beta.