My previous attempts at food pornography involved a mishmash of desk lights, a set of 500-watt halogen task lights (that double as lights for our dinning room!), and a light tent. The pictures' colors were always too hot, and lacked the dinner table context you see in a food magazine or William-Sonoma catalog. So, with this setup I am trying to get better color-balance from a portable set of lights I can set on the dinner table. Having the light fit around my light tent is a bonus.
scrap wood from a dumpster - free
12 x 24 inch light tent - $35 or make your own bigger, better, and cheaper one here
tripod - $30
5 clamp-on lights - $6 each at Home Depot, but you know you've got at least two sitting around somewhere
5 compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) - $10+ depending on rebates, energy star discounts, and whatever governmental price discounts are available. I've paid as low as $1 per CFL at times!
extension cords - $5
Including my purchased tripod and light tent, I spent around $100 in addition to the camera for this setup. If you built your own light tent and used a bunch of milkcrates and chairs as a tripod, this could easily be a $25 project consisting of a few new lamps and CFLs.