Quaker, which hasn't been a notable participant in the industry practice of partly filling large boxes with small envelopes of overpriced snacks, seems to have jumped in with both feet with new Snack'ems, single-serve portions (a little over 1 ounce each) of several of its dry cereals, including Oatmeal Squares and Cap'n Crunch.

Inside the very bulky 63/4 by 6- by 4-inch Snack'ems box (that's a capacity of about 11 cups) reside five little foil pouches, each ballooned to about 11/3 cups in volume but containing not much more than 1/2 cup of cereal.

(Mr. Tidbit measured Oatmeal Squares Snack'ems; readers are encouraged to undertake similar measurements of other varieties, for extra credit. To obtain the volume of a sealed pouch, completely submerge it in a full bowl of water set inside a larger bowl; measure the amount of water that overflows into the larger bowl.)

It's annoying but not surprising that the 11-cup box contains puffy pouches totaling only about 7 cups in volume, plus a lot of space between the pouches: That little deception is why lots of things are packed like this. But when the little pouches themselves are more than half-empty, we are brought to this sad situation:

The regular box of Oatmeal Squares measures 73/8 by 95/8 by 17/8 inches, a capacity a little over 9 cups; it contains 14.5 ounces of cereal, about 7 cups. The five pouches in the 11-cup-capacity box of Oatmeal Squares Snack'ems contain a total of 5.2 ounces of cereal, altogether about 21/2 cups. So the Snack'ems box, which is bigger, contains less than 40 percent of the cereal in the Oatmeal Squares box.

At one store, where Oatmeal Squares were \$3.19 (22 cents an ounce), Snack'ems were \$2.99 (57 cents an ounce).

When opened, the foil pouch of Snack'ems resembles a little bowl, so, yes, the extra space could hold milk. But if you have milk and a spoon, why buy Snack'ems instead of boxed cereal?