A couple points --
1. When it comes to batteries, you need a good deep-cycle golf cart or marine battery. You can get 12V batteries or (2) 6V golf cart batteries and connect them in series to get 12V. The more AH (amp hours) the better. Batteries are the shortest-lived and most expensive part of any solar power off-grid system. Look at "Batteries Plus Bulbs" website, under Duracell deep cycle batteries. That is what I have on my "wish list" for my solar panel system. I have collected a handful of 100-watt panels I've bought over the years, but can't really use them for anything without batteries. Right now I have a single 12V deep cycle battery and a portable 120 watt solar panel with built-in charge controller. This is good to power many items, but I should eventually expand my collection of batteries.
2. Inverters. Yes, you can get a cheap cigarette lighter inverter at the gas station for $20. BUT that is going to be complete crap. A) it will be low wattage, less than 90W and B) the 120V AC output will be crap -- specifically, it will be a MODIFIED SINE WAVE instead of the usual PURE SINE WAVE that comes out of your wall outlets.
Pure Sine Wave inverters are widely available, and have come way down in price since 2006 (I was pleasantly shocked myself!) so this is the route you should go. Why do you need a pure sine wave inverter, even though it costs more? Because some items, especially anything with a motor, will REALLY CARE if they are denied a pure sine wave. They will hum, buzz, or even be damaged. I wouldn't mess with the cheap inverters; you don't want to ruin or damage the equipment you plug into them.
You will get the most out of your battery if you can buy a few native 12V appliances: lights, fans, chargers, etc. You can even get a double USB plug outlet that plugs into any 12V cigarette lighter plug. Then you can run anything 5V USB. The advantage of 12V appliances is that you lose the inefficiency of an inverter. If you run a 20W light bulb directly from battery, it costs 20W. But if you go through an inverter, that 20W bulb probably costs you 25W or 28W. That inefficiency is wasted energy. No inverter is 100% efficient in converting 12V DC into 120V AC power. So go directly from battery as often as you can, even if that means buying another power cord for your laptop, radio, etc.
P.S. When trying to off-grid, or even for backup purposes, the first line of defense is DOING WITHOUT. The most efficient way to cook with solar is to put away your solar panel & battery, and get out some firewood or a solar oven. :) In other words, reduce/eliminate as much as possible, and THEN (and only then) try to get solar panels & batteries to meet your needs. Just for starters, ANYTHING INVOLVING HEAT doesn't work well with solar. You don't want to dump electricity into a high-resistance element to generate heat: electric stoves, hot plates, hair dryers, clothes dryer, hot water heater, etc. Those things are better accomplished with the sun directly (a.k.a. "passive solar"), a campfire, or the wind.
Once you've optimized and reduced your electricity needs, THEN you worry about going solar.