You could use soil under then top with sand.. it woild need to be top soil without any fertilizer. I personally would get some fluorite and mix it with sand and leave it as that. For lighting you can use a shop light or get track lighting from a hardware store and use compact flouresent bulbs. I rarely do water changes on my FW, longest I've went was probably about a year. If you don't have an insane amount of fish you will have a natural process of fish producing waste and the plants cleaning up the water.
Ease of maintenance is the only reason I still keep FW. Besides the fact I find only planted tanks relaxing, saltwater is the furthest thing to relaxing to look at for me.