Lifehacks – Free food from Tech start-ups

Let’s face it, this whole start-up revolution is great. Now, you can have shavers sent to your mailbox monthly, 1-hour groceries brought to your doorstep, cleaners at the tap of a button, a licensed masseur throwing down a deep-tissue rub in your apartment on-demand… the list goes on.

I shall ignore the philosophical debate of whether such “innovation” is worth the incessant pursuit, or if we humans are just running out of ways to be productive and have to resort to building the next “uber for anything”. Well, first-world-problems do exist, and if solving one helps you make a profit, I guess why not? I am personally guilty of attempting to solve one of them myself in Singapore, gladly.

Venture Capital money is awesome. It is BIG, it is FREE and as a potential customer you have the right to make full use of this money, if you know how to work the system. Whether it is a free ride with Uber or free ride with Lyft (or free rideS depending on how creative you are in gaming the system), 2-hr home cleanings at subsidised rates of less than $10 an hour, or a bunch of free food delivered to your doorstep.

Yes, free food.

I am a huge fan of the bunch of new start-ups seeking to solve a very specific problem in the market – folks who long to make their own meals, but cannot afford the time to pick out different recipes and go grocery shopping for the unique items. Enter these start-ups, with the common tag line of “helping you get more lazy” “helping you eat and live better”. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 7.07.48 PM

Most of all, I am a huge fan because they feed me for free. Back to VC money… one way of acquiring customers in a very competitive market is to put the product in your customers hand at a reduced cost, or no cost at all. This is exactly where the following start-ups come into the picture. They want to give you free food and recipes, at least for the first order. Let the millions of VC dollars do the job, think about it as the cash-rich Wall-street type companies doing good, by subsidising your first experience with these products. Well, if you do it in a disciplined fashion, you are guaranteed a month’s worth of free groceries (1 week each for the 4 companies below) delivered to your doorstep. By disciplined I mean, be very disciplined. The critical thing to do is to turn off the deliveries for the subsequent weeks after your first order (they will be turned on automatically for sure), and cancel your subscription after receiving your first order. Cancelling a subscription is not easy, as there will never be a direct link for you to do that; most of the time, you will need to email customer support to cancel your subscription. Hey, for a month’s worth of free/subsidised groceries with cool recipes and “feel good” photos sent to your doorstep, why not?

Of course, after you have tried the product, don’t be lazy. Google recipes, create shopping lists, go to the grocery store and live like a normal human being. Do not be fooled by these beautiful high-dev perfectly positioned photos, you are not eating photos.



Blue Apron

Blue Apron

Green Chef

Green Chef

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh

Do you have more start-up hacks to share?


East vs West


Having spent big chunks of my life in both the East and the West, it is really interesting to witness how both cultures view things very differently. There are some “concepts” that are more dominant in one versus the other. A classic example is the notion of interdependence vs independence. Generally, interdependence sets the foundation for family and society in Eastern (Asian) cultures, while in Western cultures independence is often emphasized…

This past week Lysia and I were trying to understand why we haven’t gotten a sore throat for almost a year since we moved to Austin. Back in Singapore, getting a sore throat was a bi-monthly occurrence for me. We concluded that this had to do with a concept that is part of everyday life in the “East”, but almost does not exist in the “West” (or exists in a completely different form) –  related to the concept of “Yin” and “Yang”, but applied to foods. Chinese people often refer to foods in two categories – “heaty” and “cooling”. If you’re reading this and from the “West”, you may find this concept very intriguing.

Here’s an excerpt from an online source: (by no means a legitimate source but does an adequate job of providing a brief explanation)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the notion of “heaty” foods is related to the balancing of ‘Yin and ‘Yang. To most people, especially the Chinese, in Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singaporeans, such concepts are very much part of the indigenous culture and are commonly used as a form of expressing certain set of symptoms or sensations often associated with emotional or physical reactions such as: Feelings of irritability, Short temper, Fever, Constipation, Flushed face or cheeks, Dark yellow urine, Sore throat, Nose bleed, Outbreak of pimples, Rashes, Mouth ulcers, Indigestion. Excessive “cold” energy in the body, on the contrary, will make us feel weak, lethargic, tired and restless.

We asked the Americans around us if they ever came across this concept of “heaty” and “cooling” foods, and almost everyone gave us a very puzzled glare. Fascinating. A ubiquitous concept where we grew up in the East, but a completely foreign concept where we are living right now in the West.

The definition of “heatiness” and “cooling” do not directly refer to the physical state of the food, but it’s effect on our bodies. For example, cucumber is a “cooling” food because it generates cool energy in our body. In contrast, something like mangoes is a “heaty” food which produces hotter energy. Striking a balance in both groups of food provides an “yin-yang” balance in your diet. The interesting thing is, you can actually turn a “cooling” food into a “heaty” food just based on the style of cooking. One of the famous delicacies in Singapore is an amazing dish called Chilli Crab. Now crab is defined to be a “cooling” food, but Chilli crab is considered to be a “heaty” food because of how it gets prepared.


One may think that this is indigenous folklore of sorts. In fact, I am not sure if this concept can even be proven with science. However, back to the story I started this piece with – a great reduction in occurrences of “sore throat” – qualitatively I can assert that it makes a lot of sense. When we were living in Singapore, a significant portion of our diet consisted of “heaty” foods such as tropical fruits and (google ‘durian’ and ‘jackfruit’) various spices. In the US, we have adopted very different diets that could have “turned down the heat” in our bodies. Yes, we avoid fast/fried food often. Now, do note that different people have different thresholds to “heat” or “cool” – so it really depends on the individual as well.


Every darn concept and idea in the world originates from somewhere, and to a large extent, has its own authenticity based on real people who experienced or witnessed it. “heaty” and “cooling” foods are a classic example.