In reading a wildlife rescue bk--Care of the Wild Feathered and Furred--I came across easy directions for culturing your own meal worms. The book's as old as I am--40!--and where the instructions call for a potato chip can, I'm thinking a 5 gallon bucket would be a great substitute:
"Use a metal can at least a foot in diameter and a foot high. A large potato chip can, or a small garbage can is excellent. No lid is needed, since the worms cannot climb all the way up the sides of a can. An old washtub or lard can will also work.
"Mix together two gallons of bran, the type used to feed farm animals, and about 2 pounds of cornmeal. Put the mixture in the can. Split open two or three medium potatoes or apples. Either or both may be used. Lay these on top of the meal and bran mixture with the cut side facing down. A piece of worm bath towel, double thickness, is then placed on top of the mixture. A piece of burlap may be used instead of a towel for cover. Almost any pet store can supply you with a few dozen meal worms. Put the worms on top of the bran, cover them, and put them in a moderately cool area of the house and leave them alone. As the worms grow they will crawl up between the two pieces of towel or burlap and may readily be picked up from there. Do not put water on the towel for moisture, as it may mildew. Replenish the supply of apples and/or potatoes every week or so.
"The worms develop in three stages: from eggs into worms (they are very tiny at first, but grow to an inch in length); worms into pupas, at which stage they are immobile; and then pupas into black beetles, which in turn lay eggs, starting the cycle again."
It looks like the project could be done for between $25 with everything new or about $15 if you already have a bucket, towel and apples/potatoes on hand (even less if somebody will give/sell you just a handful of meal worms):
(Prices are estimates)
(from home) Free
Bran--$10 (at a tack shop)
2 apples or potatoes--$1
Meal worms--$5 (for 500--the smallest amt I could find.)