Since then, I've vamped, re-vamped, and otherwise improved my setup. Thought it'd be nice to document it.
The goal was to get a flexible, compact, portable, use-anywhere, AVR-based microcontroller prototyping environment. On the cheap(ish).
So without further ado, here's the Ghetto Development Environment (GDE) (version 1.2).
Step 1: The Kit
USB programmer. Because you want to be able to program microcontrollers from your laptop anywhere. And because USB is a very handy source of +5v.
Programming cradles. One for each kind of chip you're playing with. For me, that means one with 8 pins (ATtiny13, 15), one with 20 pins (ATtiny 2313), and one with 28 pins (ATmega8).
Blinkenlights. When something's wrong with your code, nothing clears it up like sticking lights in to diagnose. Plus, the LED blinker program is the "Hello World" of microcontrollers.
Breadboard. It's a development kit, after all.