J&R Music World is selling closouts on the AR 215PS speakers for $50/pair. I bought 3 pair and use them as fronts, rears, center and back (6.1 receiver). Got a Parts Express 10" sub for $100. Had a DVD/CD player so no cost there. Then picked up a Kenwood 6060 for about $275. All together it cost:
AR 215PS (3x$50)= $150 10" Sub = $100 VR606 receiver = $275 Total = $525 (plus shipping)
Great sound for the price (those little AR's are an amazing steal and have a reputation as good for twice their original listed price of $299) You could probably go even cheaper if you get a reconditiioned Onkyo receiver from UBID.
Panasonic SAHE100 - Approx $250 (I believe jandr.com has this price) Onkyo SKSHT-500 Speaker Set - Approx $250 @ Circuit City.
SAHE100 offers 6.1 (Official DTS-ES 6.1, Official DTS NEO-6, and unofficial DD-EX - Panasonic's "Extended Surround" is their "equivalent") - I believe it has been tested at 70w x 6 and 78w x 5 by Sound and Vision Magazine. Lots of inputs, very nice build quality and features, considering the price - there are some corners cut for cost - some of the speakers use spring-clip connections and the remote could be (I think a lot, some people seem to be okay with it) better.
SKSHT-500 speaker set is a very, very good bargain - large, well-built speakers that produce a sound quality that I consider sounds like quite a bit more than their price tag would suggest. They are big speaks though (the subwoofer is around 30 pounds alone and the remainder of the speakers are fairly large), but you said in your post that's ok.
Great entry level set, JBLs Northbrige series, has a good reputation, for me are one of the best sepeakers for the money, and in the future you could add N26 or N28 or even N38 to your setup and end up with a great 6.1 or 7.1 setup.
Right now Onkyo has some great deals on their website on "reconditioned" stuff. I just bought the Onkyo speakers that were mentioned above for $180 (they retail for $299) and they came with a sticker on each speaker saying "Minor cosmetic damage" I actually couldn't find any damage at all and they sound awesome!