Since these are going to be used for both veggies and meat, the style of knives you will need (not want) will be a chef's knife or the Japanese equivalent a gyuto. Ignore getting or considering santoku's - they are just too short. The minimum size should be 210 mm (8 inch) or (even preferably) longer. In fact, if you can swing it, a 240 mm or 270 mm gyuto will work well, and with a pinch grip, will seem a useful length. I have knives in all three lengths, and the 210 seems smallish to me, while the 270 is just a tad big. Like Goldilocks, there seems to be a "just right" length - and that seems to me to be the 240 mm.
I must confess a bias against damascus - I think of them as a bit of decorative overkill, with adverse conditioning by the purchasers against use, since that use will invariably end up scratching the blade. My preference is for a plain blade, with the understanding that it will be a TOOL - to be used and not necessarily coddled. Too many correspondents end up treating their damascus blade knives as the "Queens of the Drawer" - to be oohed and aahed over, but never to be used seriously, for fear of damaging the blade. However, to each their own.
Damascus blades are just one category of multi-layered blades. Another is "san-mai", where the core layer of hardened steel (with the cutting edge) is sheathed between two layers of softer stainless steel. The technology is the same as for damascus, but the visual effect is simpler and there is less hesitation about just reaching for the knife.
Also for consideration are single layer blades. Some chefs with experience prefer them because of the "feel" in the hand gives (to those chefs) a tactile feedback on how the knife is cutting through the food.
One immediate purchase I would make - for a ceramic hone. You can buy a 12 inch Idahone ceramic honing rod for $30. You should really purchase two - one for your household (you and your husband's) and one for your husband's mother. You can wait a little bit for a sharpening stone, but the hone should be available from day one - and each household will need its own.
That drops your available budget per knife down to $120 per knife.
Let's talk steel. Your next decision is stainless vs carbon. On the obvious side, stainless will not be IMMEDIATELY reactive. You can use it out of the box. And you don't have to work to get the blade surface passivated. On the other hand, you can get a non-stainless carbon blade sharper and, with a proper hone, keep it sharper longer.
In the price range you're talking about, you won't see the newest and fanciest steel, such as the powdered metal steels. However, there are some respectable knives using steels in your price range. AUS-8, VG-10 and AEB-L are all used in quality stainless steel knives.
From Chef Knives To Go ("CKTG"), you can purchase a 240 mm Fujiwara FKM for $83. It uses AUS-8 steel and has a hardness of roughly 58 hRc. It's a popular first commercial chef's knife, and can easily be sharpened. It's not as hard, and therefore not as capable of taking and holding a ultra-sharp edge as some of the other steels, but you can't have everything.
Fujiwara also makes a 240 mm carbon steel knife for $90, which has gotten good comments. Will take and hold an edge well. Downside are the issues of first-time passivation before initial use and of immediate cleaning and drying after use (and that doesn't mean in a couple of minutes - that means RIGHT THEN, before anything else is done).
The Tojiro DP 240 mm gyuto is available from CKTG for $100. It's a VG-10 san mai knife and is a good compromise (for heat treatment and hardness) for VG-10. Some reports suggest it's less prone to chipping than the Shun, and at 1/2 to 1/3 the price of Shun. Some find the handle to be a bit boxy.
CKTG has a house brand of knives labelled as Richmond Knives. The Artifex line of knives are a good compromise between quality and price, with the manufacture slanted towards simple manufacture and concentration of the value in the steel used in the knife. I recently purchased a Richmond Artifex 240 mm extra-tall gyuto ($90) and am appreciating using it.
That's a quick run-through. Hope that helps.