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If $4-5 is your limit price, then you will almost certainly need to be buying used ones.
This list can sorted by quantity for sale - just change the "sort by" tab. You'll pay a premium for a large lot, but with the bonus of it being quick and just one postage cost.
Another idea is to look for relatively cheap copies of the Imperial Dropship. Sometimes people selling them don't realize just how valuable the stormtroopers are. And keep collecting OT lego. Before you know it you'll end up with quite a few just through natural addition.
Finally, for your Tatooine MOC, look for copies of the Droid Escape set - you could (and probably want to use) the Sandtroopers. I think Droid Escape is still for sale. And you can sell off 3PO and R2 to offset the costs.