Here's a recent post of mine from FFG's official site, relevant to your case:
For a starting player, my piece of advice would be to focus on the first two cycles and then jump to the sagas. Heirs, Voice, the Realm and the Havens can wait.
As far as the APs of those cycles are concerned, I'd say that Foundations of Stone and Shadow and Flame are the absolutely essential, since they provide loads of excellent cards and fun quests. Return to Mirkwood is also necessary if one wants to build a powerful Dwarf deck once he jumps into the Hobbit boxes. From then on, it depends. The Hunt for Gollum, the Conflict at the Carrock, The Dead Marches and the Watcher in the Water contain many useful player cards and very powerful heroes, save Bilbo who is... controversial. If I was starting the game anew, my first steps would be:
1. Core Set
2. The third copy of all the X2 cards in the CS. This bundle is modestly priced on the ebay and very useful to have.
3. The Hunt for Gollum
4. Conflict at the Carrock
(With all the above, all the quests in the CS and the two in the APs are beaten with a Spirit / Lore / a splash of Leadership deck without much hassle. The Dol Guldur would be impossible solo, however. It's ok. It's meant to be very difficult for solo play)
5. Khazad Dum
(Its three quests will be beaten with the above sphere combination and the cards collected till then, though the 7th level will be a toss-up most of the time)
6. Foundations of Stone
7. Shadow and Flame
8. Enter the LotR saga.
If money was really tight, I'd drop "3" and "4", though I suspect I wouldn't be able to finish any quest save the very first one till FoS and SaF were entered into the equation.
But really, "1,5,6,7" are mandatory. I also cannot recommend "2" enough.
In a few words: Just go for stuff from the first two cycles and then jump into the sagas. Ignore the other cycles, either for now or forever depending on your commitment to the game.